On Saturday, ‘Rainingdale’ would have been a better description of this beautiful heathland course on the edge of Berkshire as there was not the slightest hint of sunshine since the inaugural Seve Ballesteros Trophy began here on Friday.
With the match poised beautifully at 4-4 overnight, it was disappointing to see the morning’s play suspended due to the heavy downpour during last night. Sunningdale became the victim of flooding and even the 100-year-old course could not sustain as much rain in one day than the total amount we have had all year.
The rain was incessant up until about 11am and at around noon, European Tour officials decided it frugal to entertain the expecting crowds. By the time play resumed at one o’clock for Fourballs instead of the anticipated Greensomes format, the spectators would not be disappointed.
The best entertainment of the day came from the Spanish pairing of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. They took on Montgomerie and Woosnam in the top group and, to put it mildly, gave the British pairing a damn good 6&5 thrashing.
Olazabal was on fire with both his iron play and his putting. Ably assisted by his compatriot Jimenez, the duo reduced the front nine to a meagre 28 shots, a cumulative seven under par.
With a shot that Olazabal described as, “Perhaps the best one iron I have hit in my life” at the second hole, he electrified the misty, damp air at Sunningdale and began to entertain an already soaking wet crowd with golf of the highest calibre.
Olazabal turned the screw on the British pair with birdies at the first, second, fifth, eighth and 11th holes, 20-feet being his longest putt of the day.
The torture ended for the Brits at the 13th hole, but not after just about everyone in the crowd, probably including the opposition, wished that Olazabal would hole his 7th birdie putt of the day at the 12th hole. He hit it too hard through the break and everyone had to trudge along to the next in somewhat of a formality, but a point on the board for Europe nevertheless.
“It was very difficult for them”, said Olazabal. “We were five under par for five holes. They didn’t play all that bad, it was just that we played very well”. He added.
Montgomerie was honest in his appraisal of the match:
“Woosie and I didn’t have a prayer. It wasn’t just the one iron to eight feet at the second, it was the putting. They never looked like missing. This guy, if you ever need a putting lesson, he’s the man! It was fun to watch, I have to say that. Thank God he is on our team every second year!” Said Monty.
Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood started out with intentions of shooting the lowest possible better-ball score, also through the front nine in 28. An eagle three from Westwood at the first set the tone for the day and with five birdies thereafter, the Ryder Cup pairing rediscovered their Brookline form and turned four-up against Van de Velde and Cejka.
The Europeans refused to submit to the pressure and kept their heads above the proverbial water, plentiful around the course, and halved two holes with birdies at the 11th and 13th to stay three down.
They reduced the deficit to 2-down at the 14th thanks to a Cejka birdie, but Clarke and Westwood coasted home for a 3&1 victory winning the 17th with a conceded birdie.
Open Champion Paul Lawrie partnered Gary Orr in a 1-up victory over the tenacious Scandinavian partnership of Sandelin and Karlsson.
A better ball of 65 helped the Scots to a narrow victory after turning 3-up and seemingly cruising. But The Swedes plugged away at their lead, reducing it to 1-up at the 17th thanks to a poor bogey by Lawrie.
The Scots held on at the last with Lawrie requiring two putts for victory and a valuable point for the British contingent.
And Sergio Garcia joined Lee Westwood in becoming the only other player to have won the maximum three points when he and Dane Thomas Bjorn held off John Bickerton and Welshman Phillip Price.
The continentals were always in command of the match from the second hole onwards. But Bickerton and Price fought all the way, only to lose the 17th to a birdie from Bjorn from six feet. They held on at the last and when Price failed to extract his ball from the greenside bunker, it was all over and the match stood at 6-6 for the final days Greensomes and singles matches.
Sunday 16th April Greensomes pairings:
0810: Jimenez/Olazabal vs Lawrie/Orr
0825: Garcia/Van de Velde vs Montgomerie/Howell
0840: Langer/Bjorn vs Clarke/Westwood
0855: Cejka/Karlsson vs Harrington/Price