March de Triomphe – France’s Runaway ITC Victory
The combination of sang froid and red hot ball-striking saw France serve up cordon bleu golf to win the Glenmuir, Associaçäo Turismo do Algarve and the Ryder Cup European Development Trust supported PGAs of Europe International Team Championship at Vale do Lobo.
Such was the dominance of the French that the five-shot advantage they boasted at the start of the fourth and final round had almost doubled at the end of it. All of which left the five teams that harboured realistic hopes of denying the French their second triumph in the tournament scrapping for the runner’s up berth.
In the event it was shared between Spain and Scotland who finished nine strokes adrift. Long beforehand, however, Benjamin Nicolay and his two team-mates had turned the event into a procession.
So much so, that any champagne the French had put on ice before the start of play over the Ocean course could have been cracked open midway through their round. But Nicolay was not taking anything for granted in his team’s pursuit of the £6,000 first prize and cut glass trophy.
“Five shots is not that big a lead in this format and things can change very quickly,” he said. “So it was very important we got a good start to settle us down.” His caution was especially understandable given the bitter disappointment he experienced last year when Mother Nature was at her most malevolent.
As a result their chances of winning were washed away by the abandonment of the final round and England were the beneficiaries. “I guess we’ve got our revenge and this makes up for last year,” said Nicolay, without a hint of triumphalism.
And rather than gloat and turn the clock back 12 months, he preferred to talk about the past four days. “We’ve been very consistent throughout the tournament,” he added. “We all carded par or under again today. Apart from once, that’s been the case in every round. We’ve played very well and I’m very happy.”
Bertrand Cornut and Nicolay gave France the steady start they craved, the former posting three birdies in the first six holes, the latter two. And although Cornut could not maintain his early momentum and finished on level par, Stephane Lahary (two-under) picked up the baton.
Once again, though, Nicolay played a role befitting his status and carded a three-under-par round of 69, his fourth successive sub-par return. Meanwhile, Francisco Cea and Ismael del Castillo both posted sub-par rounds to earn Spain £4,500 for finishing joint second – an effort that was particularly noteworthy given that they were deprived of the services of Fernando Roca for the last three rounds because of injury.
Likewise Scotland in the light of a dreadful start that saw them one-over after the first round and nine shots off the pace. “That cost us,” said Jim McKinnon. “But we turned it round on day two by carding seven-under-par. That was a really good effort and we kept in touch after that.
“Unfortunately we could make up the five stroke gap today but France played fantastically well, so all credit to them.”
Spain and Scotland finished a stroke ahead of Italy and two clear of England, who were never able to maintain the form they showed on the first day.
For an example of maintaining form, however, look no further than Sweden’s Peter Grimfjord. After an opening round of 76, he carded 69, 68 and 67 – the last two the best of their respective rounds.
Final Results – Click HERE
ITC 2011 – Round 3
Better late than never triumph beckons for France
Benjamin Nicolay played the role of Capitaine Fantastique to perfection at Vale do Lobo to put France on track to win the PGAs of Europe International Team Championship and make up for last year’s bitter disappointment.
Nicolay was a member of the team 12 months ago when, with France looking the likely winners, thunder, lightning and a deluge, which swamped the course, caused the fourth round to be abandoned.
As a result England were declared the winners by virtue of the fact they were leading at the end of round three. Which, thanks to Nicolay’s joint best of the day four-under-par round of 68 and another valuable contribution from Stephane Lahary, is where France find themselves going into the final day.
Their combined effort has put France five strokes clear of Scotland in the race for the €6,000 first prize and a victory that would be only their second in the competition. Given the tournament’s format – the best two scores from three counting – a five-stroke advantage could hardly be described as unassailable – unless, of course, the weather has the last word again.
However, Nicolay is confident all three members of his team are playing well enough to withstand any challenges mounted by Scotland or the five others that remain under par – without any assistance from Mother Nature.
Talking of his game after recording the fourth birdie of his round at the par-five 18th, the Frenchman said: “It was the right time to produce a round like that. It’s helped us get into a great position but my team-mates are also playing well. Stephane followed up his second round of three-under by shooting two-under and Bertrand (Cornut) was level par for the second round running.
“As well as playing consistently, we’re improving all the time. We’re in a great position and it’s a big chance for us. We were very disappointed last year, especially as we were going so well. Hopefully, it will work out for us this time.”
Scotland, with Chris Currie finding form on day three with a round of two-under and Jim McKinnon (one-under) also contributing, look the likeliest lads to poop the French party. And England, a shot further adrift, cannot be discounted, especially after Craig Goodfellow rediscovered his mojo and Gary Brown is finding his touch.
Goodfellow, whose round of 66 on day one was the second best of the tournament so far, put the memory of his disastrous six-over-par follow-up to post three-under.Meanwhile, Brown contributed to his side’s total for the first time by shooting level par.
Spain, on seven-under, are also in the hunt, although they will have to make up the leeway a man short if Fernando Roca does not recover from an injured thumb. And Italy, joint-leaders overnight with France and Spain, will have to produce a collective recovery after posting five-over and slipping to fifth.
As for a dark horse – look no further than Denmark who are improving with every round. An opening round of four-over was followed by one of two-under before Rune Olsen and Martin Hansen both carded 69s to take the Danes to four-under for the competition and up to sixth place.
The rounds were also one stroke short of the best of the day posted by Nicolay and Sweden’s Peter Grimfjord. Olsen, however, was left to curse some near misses for not surpassing that total. “The putts just would not drop,” he said, “although I was very pleased with my round. If we can play like that again in the fourth round, we could get up to third or fourth, which would be the best we’ve ever done.”
The PGAs of Europe’s Annual Congress and International Team Championship are supported once again by Glenmuir, Associaçäo Turismo do Algarve and the Ryder Cup European Development Trust.
ITC 2011 – Round 2
Three’s Company at Vale do Lobo
France, Spain and Italy produced evidence of the growing strength of golf in mainland Europe by sharing the lead at the halfway stage of the PGAs of Europe International Team Championship at Vale do Lobo.
And that all three did so with homegrown players in the line-ups, as opposed to professionals with British or Irish connections, only serves to substantiate the point.
Of the three, Spain had the best of the day despite losing Fernando Roca after just three holes of the par-72 Ocean course. Roca withdrew because of an injured thumb but team-mates Francisco Cea and Ismael del Castillo made up for his absence, both posting three-under-par rounds of 69 to leave Spain on eight-under.
Meanwhile, the members of the Italian trio reprised the consistency they had showed in the first round with three more returns of level or sub-par. Fernando Pasqualucci was responsible for the former while, with the best two of the three returns counting, Massimo Florioli and Zeke Martinez contributed to the score with rounds of one-under.
The French threesome also carded rounds of level or sub-par to post a second successive total of four-under. Stephane Lahary failed to contribute to that total in the first round, withdrawing after nine holes. However, he made amends on another sunny day in the Algarve by posting three-under to add to Benjamin Nicolay’s one-under. All of which keeps France on track to make up for last year’s disappointment when the cancellation of the last round because of bad weather denied them the chance of winning the tournament when they were well-placed.
France’s loss on that occasion proved England’s gain but, after beginning the defence of their title in impressive style, the holders went backwards on day two. Eight-under at the start of play and occupying pole position, they were five-under at the close languishing in sixth place. Chris Gill maintained a semblance of consistency with a level-par round and Gary Brown’s three-over was an improvement on his first round score.
By contrast, it was a case of after the Lord Mayor’s Show for Craig Goodfellow. The borrowed clubs that had served him so well were more akin to sticks of rhubarb than magic wands as he followed up a best of the day round of 66 with one a dozen shots worse. England’s total leaves them one adrift of Ireland and Scotland, for whom Jim McKinnon was in fine form
Scotland began the day nine shots behind England and a bogey on the opening hole from McKinnon did not bode well for their chances of making an impact on the tournament. But McKinnon rallied immediately with successive birdies and added another in the outward nine. Another followed at the tenth but was cancelled out a bogey at the 11th before he ended the round with a flourish by carding three birdies in the last four holes to post a five-under-par 67.
McKinnon, who was aided and abetted by Adam Lockhart (two-under), was understandably delighted with his round and the change in his team’s fortunes. “I’m very happy with way we’ve turned it round,” he said. “At one stage England were 11-under and almost out of sight. But things can change very quickly in this format and we’re back in contention. “I’m also pleased with my round. The greens were a lot firmer today and I made lots of chances but was unable to take them all.”
One such was at the par-five 18th when McKinnon needed to hole a five-foot putt for an eagle. Had it dropped, however, the Scottish captain would still not have been able to claim to round of the day. That distinction went to South Africa’s Pieter Kruger, who followed up an inauspicious first round of two-over with one of seven-under for the best of the tournament so far. Five successive pars gave no hint of what was to follow but an eagle three at the sixth lit the blue touch paper. The fair-haired six-footer followed up with a birdie at the next before firing another six on the homeward nine.
A minor blemish came with a bogey at the par-three 15th but Kruger was in no mood to complain about a turnaround in form he attributed to two factors. “The putts wouldn’t drop for me yesterday but they did today,” he explained. “And I also think a good night’s sleep helped. It took us 26 hours to get here and I was exhausted in the first round. An early night obviously worked wonders, so perhaps I’ll to do that for the rest of the tournament.”
* The PGAs of Europe’s Annual Congress and International Team Championship are supported once again by Glenmuir, Associaçäo Turismo do Algarve and the Ryder Cup European Development Trust.
ITC 2011 – Round 1
Craig Goodfellow On Song with Tony Bennett’s Clubs
England overcame circumstances that were as testing as they were bizarre to produce an impressive start to their defence of the PGAs of Europe International Team Championship at Vale do Lobo.
For two members of the English trio – Craig Goodfellow and Chris Gill – the journey to the Algarve was a case of breakfast in Istanbul, lunch in Lisbon and clubs in limbo.
The pair, who had competed in the PGA Titleist Play-Offs earlier in Turkey earlier the week, arrived minus their luggage and clubs. Lost in transit was the official explanation but, despite having to borrow clubs and clothes, the pair were anything but missing in action over the par 72 Ocean course.
Gill, a PGA professional at Exeter Golf and Country Club who borrowed his clubs from a member of the South Africa delegation, set the tone with a two-under par round of 70. Gill, who pronounced himself happy with the alien driver and putter but described the irons as little ‘soft’, had urged his team-mates to make the most of it.
And Goodfellow, from Carlisle Driving Range, did just that. In spades. Despite his height of 6 foot 5 inches making him more difficult to equip both club and clothes-wise, he made light of the handicap by carding a six-under-par round of 66 as England opened up a two-shot advantage over the rest of the field.
The clubs had been procured for him by tournament director Ben Groutage who explained: “I got them from the PGAs of Europe Director of Education Tony Bennett because he’s tall.”
Initially, Goodfellow had understandable misgivings. Come the end of his round, however, he asked to borrow the set for the remainder of the tournament.
“The irons and the putter were fantastic,” he said. “I hit one poor shot all day – on the 17th. I’ve never experienced anything like this and would like to hang on them.”
In addition to playing with unfamiliar weapons, Goodfellow also had to find someone of a similar size to lend him clothes and golf shoes.
Which explained why he was wearing waterproof trousers in the Portugese sunshine. “The trousers and the shoes belong to Simon Edwards of Wales,” he added. “Fortunately, Glenmuir, the tournament sponsors, equip us with polo shirts, so I was able to wear something that was mine and clean.”
Despite that “poor” shot on the 17th, Goodfellow’s round was blemish-free and included four birdies and an eagle. That came on the par five sixth, an achievement emulated by Ireland’s John Kelly, whose five-under-par round of 67 was the second best of the day.
Unlike Goodfellow, however, his round was anything but flawless and the final total owed much to a storming finish that saw him post five birdies in the final six holes. Prior to that he had ended the outward half in par after carding the eagle, a birdie and three bogeys.
With team-mate David Ryan weighing in with par, Kelly’s five-under saw Ireland occupy third place at the end of the first of four rounds, a stroke behind Italy, whose trio produced the team performance of the day.
All three posted sub-par rounds but, with the best two of three counting, Zeke Martinez and Fernando Pasqualucci contributed to the closing total of six-under with rounds 70, while Massimo Florioli’s 71 missed out.
France, in fourth place on 140, were indebted to Bertrand Cornut and Benjamin Nicolay who both posted two-under-par rounds of 70; and Spain lie fifth, two strokes further back on 142 thanks to Francisco Cea (two-under) and Fernando Roca (level).
* The PGAs of Europe’s annual programme of highlight activities is supported once again by Glenmuir, Associaçäo Turismo do Algarve and the Ryder Cup European Development Trust.