Westy to spearhead Britain & Ireland

Lee Westwood will spearhead Great Britain & Ireland against a strong Continental Europe featuring Thomas Björn.

World number two Lee Westwood will spearhead Great Britain and Ireland against a strong Continental Europe featuring the in-form Thomas Björn at next week’s Vivendi Seve Trophy.

And that’s official. It was conformed on Tuesday.

GB & Ireland, again to be captained by Irishman Paul McGinley, will defend the title they won two years ago at St-Nom-La-Bretèche in Paris from September 15-18, and the good news for home team fans is that the team will be further strengthened by the presence in the team of Open champion Darren Clarke and world number 18 Ian Poulter.

The English trio of Simon Dyson, Ross Fisher and Robert Rock, an integral part of Great Britain’s 2009 victory, are back in the team, alongside Welshman Jamie Donaldson, Scotland’s Scott Jamieson and English new caps David Horsey and Mark Foster.

Continental Europe boasts six players in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings list, including Bjorn who will tee of in the biennial tournament fresh from back-to-back European Tour victories in the Johnny Walker Championship at Gleneagles just over a week ago and in the Omega European Masters in the Swiss Alps on Sunday

The 40 year-old Dane, who captained Continental Europe in 2009, has now won three times this season to rise to world number 28 and is hoping that in securing his place in the team as a player this time, he will be making an important first step towards regaining his place in the European Ryder Cup team next year.

Italian teenager Matteo Manassero will make his Vivendi Seve Trophy debut for Europe, as will Alex Noren of Sweden, Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal.

Manassero, at 18 years and 152 days, is the youngest player in the history of the competition, beating the record held by Sergio Garcia, who was 20 years and 96 days when he first made the team in 2000.

Italy’s Francesco Molinari, Alvaro Quiros of Spain and Dane Anders Hansen were debutants two years ago and return to the team, while 47 year-old Miguel Angel Jiménez, making his seventh appearance in the competition, is hoping to add to his success in 2000.

Sweden’s Peter Hanson will complete the strong Euro line-up in his fourth appearance.

McGinley will be aiming to maintain his 100 per cent record in the event, having won it twice as a player in 2006 and 2007 and as captain in 2009.

He said: “It is a huge boost for our team that players of the calibre of Lee, Darren and Ian have opted to play next week. These are players with big worldwide reputations and impressive Ryder Cup pedigrees.

“I think we have an extremely strong side with a good blend of youth and experience and I am certain that our four rookies will learn an enormous amount from playing with the likes of Lee and Darren.

“It is certain that many of the members of our team will go on to represent Europe in The Ryder Cup, so this experience of team golf cannot be underestimated.”

Van de Velde commented: “I would like to thank my Continental side for making the effort to play. We have a very strong team and GB & I will also benefit from having Lee and Darren in their line-up. It has the making of a very exciting and close contest.

“It is great to see so many great champions in the field and so many fantastic young prospects like Matteo Manassero.

“With eight rookies in the two teams, it means that 40 per cent of the sides are newcomers to the Vivendi Seve Trophy and this will be great preparation for the day they step up to play in The Ryder Cup.

“We have Miguel Angel Jiménez playing in his seventh Seve Trophy and Thomas Björn his sixth. However we are 5-1 down in the series and I hope we can reverse the trend.”

The strength of the event is evidenced by the fact that six players from the European Ryder Cup team which beat the United States last October are playing – Westwood, Poulter, Fisher, Jiménez, Molinari and Hanson.

The teams play fourballs, greensomes, foursomes and singles over the four days. Qualification for the teams began at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in December 2010 and finished after the Omega European Masters last weekend.

The Vivendi Seve Trophy, instigated by the late Seve Ballesteros as a team competition to be contested in non-Ryder Cup years, has been played six times, with Continental Europe winning the first edition at Sunningdale in England and Great Britain and Ireland claiming the last five matches.