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The Spanish are on the march - Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez(Getty Images)

The Spanish Armada is coming

By Paul Symes -

Print News

After a summer of sport in which their native land has been the dominant force, Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jim�nez will bid to round Spain's year off in style by inspiring Europe to more Ryder Cup glory.

Garcia will be particularly keen to emulate the success of his close friend and compatriot Rafael Nadal, who recently marked his ascent to Number One in the tennis world by adding Olympic gold to his Wimbledon crown.

In addition to the more recent success enjoyed by Nadal and Fernando Torres and co. at the European Championships, Garcia and Jim�nez can also take inspiration from Spain's rich Ryder Cup heritage.

The prospects of another tale of Spanish triumph being written at Valhalla appear promising, with Europe having won the last three encounters, and Garcia playing a talismanic role in each.

Despite being 16 years younger than his cigar-puffing compatriot Garcia is in fact the more experienced of the duo, having featured in four Ryder Cups to Jim�nez's two.

In that time he has collected 15 points from a possible 20, but the bare statistics do not even begin to do justice to the galvanising effect Garcia has had on the European Team.

The natural exuberance the young Spaniard brings to his game is seemingly amplified tenfold whenever he tees up in the biennial contest, and along with the triumphant triumvirate of Darren Clarke, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood, he has come to define the team spirit which has been so key to Europe's dominance of late.

As if remaining undefeated at Oakland Hills in 2004 was not inspirational enough, Garcia promptly made history two years later at The K Club by becoming only the second man after Captain Ian Woosnam to take maximum points from the foursomes and fourballs.

At least some of the credit for his record-equalling feat must go to fellow countryman Jos� Maria Olaz�bal, with whom Garcia struck up such a productive partnership.

One of the abiding memories of that year's contest was of the two men high-fiving their way to convincing wins over David Toms and Brett Wetterich on the Friday, and Phil Mickelson and Chris DiMarco on the Saturday.

In the Sunday singles Garcia, perhaps drained after his exertions over the previous two days, was narrowly defeated by Stewart Cink, but by then victory for Europe had already been assured.

Jim�nez has also tasted Ryder Cup success, having triumphed in 2004 when, memorably, he requested "Rioja wine, an espresso machine and cigars" as his requirements for the European Team Room.

A lover of fast cars as well as fine wines, The Mechanic's wish was duly granted, as was Europe's desire for a second successive victory.

Like Garcia, Jim�nez made his debut in 1999, two years after the greatest Spanish golfer of them all -- "The Matador" Seve Ballesteros -- had played a Captain's role in Europe's retention of The Ryder Cup at Valderrama.

In so doing, Ballesteros -- who made his Ryder Cup debut in 1979 -- became the first Spaniard to lead the European Team, and in many ways his hands-on, all-action style of captaincy subsequently became the blueprint for his successors in the role.

Ballesteros' brilliance as Captain was perhaps to be expected, given his record as a player down the years and the tremendous importance he attached to The Ryder Cup.

Like with Garcia, arguably his most memorable moments came in tandem with the man affectionately known as "Olly", who will for the first time this year fill the role of Nick Faldo's Vice Captain.

On his debut in 1987, Olaz�bal teamed up with Ballesteros -- playing in his fourth Ryder Cup -- to quite stunning effect, the pair winning their first three matches en route to Europe's 15-13 victory over their American counterparts.

Two years later the dynamic duo went one better, remaining unbeaten over the first two days to help Europe retain the coveted trophy courtesy of a dramatic 14-14 draw. The pair then repeated the feat in 1991, albeit in a losing cause.

But with the Matador now in retirement and Olly behind the ropes, it will be left to the Mechanic and his young amigo to ensure the Spanish flag is once again flying proudly aboard the Armada which returns from Kentucky on September 22.