Seve Trophy Shows Its Value

The debate over its merits often overshadows the actual event itself but the the Vivendi Trophy with Seve Ballesteros (more commonly know by a slightly more romantic name: The Seve Trophy) did provide us with some talking points the weekend before last.

Great Britain and Ireland won again, a fifth triumph on the bounce after Continental Europe’s inaugural win back in 2000, thanks to a five point victory that survived a European revival in the singles.

Much of the talk on the eve of the event focused on who wasn’t around. Lee Westwood took a rest week, Padraig Harrington was chasing Tiger in the FedEx Cup and Ian Poulter explained on Twitter that he wanted to avoid burn out with a hectic schedule.

Strangely though, in the short history of an event that has never seemed to be one thing or another, I can’t remember when it has been followed by such positivity.

Much of this is thanks to two men who weren’t even playing.

Firstly Seve Ballesteros himself. This event is intended to honour his greatness and his lasting legacy to European golf. The normal moans and groans are insulting to that legacy, even more so when he bravely battles back from such a serious illness. That meant a lot of the normal brickbats about it were cast aside out of respect so that, despite some controversy, this year the tournament wasn’t completely written off before it began.

Seve couldn’t make it to France but the event somehow came together as a fitting tribute was thanks to another of
the European Tour’s behemoths.

As Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie attended the trophy as an observer as he begins to form ideas for his assault on Corey Pavin’s Americans next year in Wales.

Despite this his influence could be seen throughout the week. He had hand picked the two captain’s with an eye to the vice captaincy roles that he feels will be so important at Celtic Manor.

Both Thomas Bjorn and Paul McGinley impressed in their roles but Montgomerie will be most heartened by the way McGinley went about the job. Already Padraig Harrington, a man who has often seemed uncomfortable with the team game, is tipping his fellow Irishman as a Ryder Cup captain. If Europe’s leading player is saying that then you can bet the selection committee will now have McGinley on their minds.

McGinley got his pairings right, got his media persona right and managed his team well. He was, in a nutshell, given a Ryder Cup captaincy dress rehearsal. At no point did he fluff his lines.

And in managing his team McGinley gave Monty the biggest boost he has yet had in his battle to regain the transatlantic bragging rights.

Last season Rory McIlroy dismissed the Ryder Cup as nothing but an exhibition match. That sent shockwaves through the media but it must have also worried Montgomerie.

If young Rory continues to progress the way he has been he is going to be a massive player for Europe, the talisman feeding the crowd and spurring others on to greatness. It’s a great boost to have that potential on your side, a great worry to think he might not fancy the competition.

So McGinley’s ability to provide McIlroy with a team environment in which he could thrive – four points out of five and a strong partnership with countryman Graeme McDowell – will have taught Montgomerie a valuable lesson. And he will have been delighted to hear Rory playing the contrite young man to perfection and announcing that he’d got it wrong. From now on, as far the Ryder Cup goes, Rory McIlroy is raring to go.

Don’t bet against seeing the “three Mc’s” together in Wales: Rory and Graeme playing together under the on course tutelage of vice captain Paul.

For Montgomerie and his European team the positives of the Seve Trophy have far outweighed the negatives of absences and largely manufactured media spats.

A lasting and fitting tribute to Seve? Perhaps not yet. But if Monty, Paul and Rory have turned it into a breeding ground for a victorious European Ryder Cup side then something tells me that nobody would be happier than Spain’s finest.

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