PARIS (Reuters) - Ryder Cup stalwart Miguel Angel Jimenez will honor his late friend Seve Ballesteros by hitting the first shot in the Seve Trophy team event on Thursday.
Jimenez will lead the Continental Europe side into action when he and fellow Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal take on Britain and Ireland's Simon Dyson and Jamie Donaldson in the first of five fourball matches at St Nom La Breteche.
"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," Europe captain Jean Van de Velde told reporters.
"We decided there would be a Spaniard hitting the first shot of the tournament and who better than his good friend Miguel Angel Jimenez."
Britain and Ireland skipper Paul McGinley agreed to give up the right of the visiting team to strike the opening shot.
"It was Jean's idea and a very good idea. I was very happy to roll in behind it," said McGinley.
The Irishman caused a minor surprise by splitting up good friends Lee Westwood, the world number two, and British Open champion Darren Clarke when he announced his pairings.
Westwood and Mark Foster take on Dane Anders Hansen and Italy's Francesco Molinari in the opening session of the biennial event while Clarke joins forces with David Horsey against Italian Matteo Manassero and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts.
"I decided on the first day it was important the rookies on the team all have experienced players with them," said McGinley. "That's ... why I broke Lee and Darren up."
"I'm very much aware of how formidable this European team is. It's probably the strongest team they have ever produced ... so we are under no illusions whatsoever that we are going to have to play extremely well if we want to win."
The other two matches feature Swede Peter Hanson and Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin against Ross Fisher and Scott Jamieson while Dane Thomas Bjorn and Swede Alex Noren face Ian Poulter and Robert Rock.
Britain and Ireland have won the trophy five times and Europe once since the event was launched by Spanish great Ballesteros, who died earlier this year after a long battle with brain cancer.
(Writing by Tony Jimenez in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)