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Champions take big lead in Seve Trophy

updated 4:56 PM EDT, Thu September 15, 2011
Jamie Donaldson, right, and Simon Dyson of the Great Britain & Ireland team celebrate during their victory on Thursday.
Jamie Donaldson, right, and Simon Dyson of the Great Britain & Ireland team celebrate during their victory on Thursday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Miguel Angel Jimenez hits opening shot at Seve Trophy in honor of his late friend
  • Spaniard unable to stop Great Britain & Ireland from taking a 4-1 lead in France
  • Visitors have won the team event the past five times against Continental Europe
  • Its founder Seve Ballesteros died in May after a long battle with brain cancer

(CNN) -- The Great Britain & Ireland team took a commanding 4-1 lead over Continental Europe after the first day of the Seve Trophy on Thursday, in the event's first staging since its founder died.

Golf legend Seve Ballesteros passed away in May after a long battle with brain cancer, and the players in both line-ups honored his memory at Saint-Nom-La-Breteche in France.

The visiting team usually plays the first tee shot in the match play event, but captain Paul McGinley allowed Miguel Angel Jimenez -- a longtime friend of his fellow Spaniard Ballesteros -- to open proceedings.

That was the end of Europe's advantage as Jimenez and compatriot Pablo Larrazabal lost 2&1 in fourballs competition to last weekend's KLM Open champion Simon Dyson of England and Wales' Jamie Donaldson.

The biggest winning margin went to Ryder Cup player Ross Fisher and Scottish debutant Scott Jamieson, who triumphed 6&4 against Sweden's Peter Hanson and France's Raphael Jacquelin.

Seve is the reason this tournament exists, and after his passing away everybody felt that paying a tribute to the man would be very important
Jean van de Velde

England's Ian Poulter and Robert Rock won 5&3 against in-form Thomas Bjorn of Denmark and Sweden's Alexander Noren -- who have won five European Tour tournaments between them this season.

British Open champion Darren Clarke partnered England's David Horsey to a one-hole victory over talented Italian teenager Matteo Manassero and Belgium's Nicolas Colsaerts.

Europe's only point came from Denmark's Anders Hansen and Italian Francesco Molinari, who beat world No. 2 Lee Westwood and his fellow Englishman Mark Foster after preserving their narrow lead at the final hole.

The tournament has been held since 2000, with Continental Europe failing to repeat their success that year in the five subsequent stagings.

Irishman McGinley is seeking to claim his second successive victory.

He faces a new counterpart in Frenchman Jean van de Velde, who had the idea of veteran Jimenez teeing off first.

"Seve is the reason this tournament exists, and after his passing away a few months ago, I and everybody felt that paying a tribute to the man would be something very important," Van de Velde told the European Tour website.

"He was one of the players, if not the player in my heart, who made the European Tour or at least launched the European Tour from where it was to where it is now. So we decided there would be a Spaniard hitting the first shot of the tournament, and who better than his good friend, Miguel Angel Jimenez."

On Friday, Dyson and Donaldson play Bjorn and Jacquelin in game one, then Rock and Poulter face Sweden's Hanson and Noren.

Jamieson and Fisher take on Colsaerts and Manassero, Foster and Westwood will again play Hansen and Molinari, while Clarke and Horsey will face Larrazabal and Jimenez.

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