Volvo World Match Play will return… next May
By PEDRO BOLICHERO
IT HAD BEEN the subject of much speculation and bar-stool punditry. When were they planning to hold the 2010 Volvo World Match Play Championship? Or, more to the point: would they be holding it at all?
Last year, when the championship moved to Finca Cortesín from its traditional Wentworth venue since 1964 (together with a new sponsor and format), it had been held from 29 October to 1 November. In December, however, it was announced that the Junta de Andalucía (regional government) had swooped in and taken up that same European Tour week in 2010 (28-31 October) for the inaugural Andalucía Masters at Valderrama. With the Castelló Masters the week before and the WGC-HSBC Champions the following week, the World Match Play effectively had nowhere to go.
Behind the scenes, Volvo apparently were quietly mulling over the situation: reading all the blogs and commentary with some bemusement but, with sterling Swedish sang-froid, keeping their cards close to their chest until they had something to say.
By 7 June they did have something to say: there would be no championship in 2010, and the event would move to a permanent date in May (19th to 22nd next year) at Finca Cortesín, with the field expanded to 24 players, an increased prize fund and a “refined qualification criteria”.
In a news release accompanying their press conference at Finca Cortesín that same day, they explained: “Securing a new permanent date for the championship has been at the very heart of today’s announcement. With the global schedule becoming ever more congested in the autumn months with existing tournaments and the addition of new events in Europe and Asia, Volvo and IMG have worked together with the European Tour and, crucially, the players, to ensure that this world-class event is given the date it properly deserves. The new permanent May date for the championship is secured under a four-year agreement with the European Tour (2011-2014) and ensures the Volvo World Match Play Championship is guaranteed the Spanish sunshine and that the world’s best players are able to include the Volvo World Match Play Championship in their schedules; and, crucially, the aim is that the Volvo World Match Play Championship will now be the sole dominant European Tour event played in the new date.”
In 2011, the field will be increased from 16 to 24, and the prizemoney will rise to €3.4 million, with a winner’s cheque of €800,000; and there will be eight round-robin groups of three players each (last year there were four groups of four).
Under the new qualification system, those earning a place in the field will include the defending champion (Ross Fisher); the winner of the 2010 Volvo China Open (Y.E. Yang); the four leading players in the 2010 Race to Dubai; eight players through selected European Tour events, including the winner and runner-up of the Andalucía Masters 2010 and Open de Andalucía 2011; other players, according to their continent of origin, from the world rankings after the 2011 US Masters and the Race to Dubai; and one sponsor’s invitee.
Speaking at the press conference, Per Ericsson, president and CEO of Volvo Event Management Golf, said, “The round-robin groups last year were a great success and we think the extended field and the eight groups of three will lead to even more excitement and a clearer understanding for the players and spectators as to who will emerge the group winners.
“We changed the qualification criteria ahead of the 2009 championship because we wanted to make the event even more international and we feel it worked wonderfully and were thrilled with the field gathered in 2009. Extending the field to 24 players has enabled us to build on this ethos and we are confident that the 2011 championship will deliver a larger group of the world’s leading golfers of the same excellent quality, while spectators will see their favourites playing a larger number of nail-biting matches. This is a world class tournament and we took our time to agree the new date going forward after studying all the relevant Tours’ schedules to ensure our tournament is the one to play that week.”