Champions hit by stay-aways

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Britain & Ireland have been so badly hit by withdrawals, they are being seen as the Vivendi Trophy underdogs.

Despite four successive wins in the Seve Trophy – now renamed the Vivendi Trophy – Great Britain and Ireland have been so badly hit by withdrawals, they have to be the clear underdogs in this week’s duel with Continental Europe in Paris
Paul McGinley’s side is without its four highest-ranked players in Paul Casey, Padraig Harrington, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, with US-based Luke Donald and Justin Rose also unavailable.
This while the only absentees from Thomas Bjorn’s European outfit are Sergio Garcia and injury-hit Martin Kaymer.
Yet, even with eight such high-profile names not showing up for a variety of reasons, 18 of the 20 golfers playing in the event still come from the world’s top 100.
The exceptions are Steve Webster and Robert Rock, two of the eight English players taking part.
Unlike the Ryder Cup, the Vivendi Trophy at St Nom la Breteche is over four days, rather than three.
Fourballs are played on Thursday and Friday, followed by greensomes and foursomes on Saturday and then singles on Sunday.
Greensomes are when both partners drive on each hole, but then choose one ball.
Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie will be in attendance looking at candidates for his team to play at Celtic Manor next year, and for 20-year-old Rory McIlroy and 21-year-old Chris Wood it will be a first taste of international golf as professionals.
McIlroy’s rise to world number 24 makes him Britain and Ireland’s top player on paper, while Wood’s performances in the last two Open Championships – fifth as an amateur, then third as a pro – have thrust him into the limelight too.
Montgomerie said: “You can’t do anything about players who are injured (Kaymer and Casey) and scheduling is also difficult.
“What I would rather focus on is who is there because there is an awful lot of talent in both teams.
“Also, due to players not being there, it gives an opportunity to others who otherwise might not have been involved.
“I know what they are all like as golfers and anyone can beat anyone else on any given day.
“What I am looking for is how they gel as team members. When I go into the team rooms I will be watching to see how they react to what their team captains have to say and also to what I have to say because I’ll have a spiel myself.
“I’m anxious to find out about them in other areas. I’ll be looking at all types of different ways of making sure the side I captain at Celtic Manor is very much a team and are playing for each other. This is a very important four days.”
Montgomerie’s relationship with McGinley and Bjorn also has a bearing on next year because he chose them with a clear view to naming them later as vice-captains – unless either or both of them qualify for the side.
“Thomas was a brilliant assistant in 2004 under Bernhard Langer. I know his credentials and am looking forward to seeing Paul’s.”
THE TEAMS
Continental Europe: >/B>Henrik Stenson, Robert Karlsson, Soren Kjeldsen, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Soren Hansen, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Alvaro Quiros, Peter Hanson, Anders Hansen, Francesco Molinari. Non-playing captain: Thomas Bjorn
Great Britain and Ireland: Rory McIlroy, Ross Fisher, Oliver Wilson, Graeme McDowell, Chris Wood, Simon Dyson, Robert Rock, Nick Dougherty, Steve Webster, Anthony Wall. Non-playing captain: Paul McGinley

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