NOW that’s a FIELD!

18 May

Putting the “World” back into “Match Play”

(Photo: Volvo in Golf)


IT HADN’T REQUIRED too healthy a dose of scepticism in recent years to look at the World Match Play Championship as something of a misnomer. In its 44-year history at the Wentworth it had produced a stellar roll-call of champions – but the fields gradually diminished to, in some cases, almost a second tier of the world’s best.

Even in 2009 when the championship was resurrected by Volvo after a year’s hiatus and moved to Finca Cortesín in Casares (at the western end of the Costa del Sol), several of the players receiving invitations must have thought Christmas had come early (it was October) as they teed up for a €2 million-plus prize fund, enjoyed a luxurious stay with their families at the resort and could, if they won, commandeer bragging rights as “world champion” (albeit somewhat dubiously).

Amigos in Casares: Álvaro Quirós, Lee Westwood, Miguel Ángel Jiménez (Photo: Volvo in Golf)

This year, with the tournament moving to a new date (19-22 May), the no doubt relieved organisers have enjoyed claiming it has “the strongest field in the history of the Volvo World Match Play Championship”.

There may be an element of hyperbole there but also some justification: all four reigning Grand Slam champions are in the field (Graeme McDowell, 2010 US Open; Louis Oosthuizen, 2010 British Open; Martin Kaymer, 2010 US PGA Championship; and Charl Schwartzel, 2011 US Masters); as well as the three top players in the official world ranking (1 Lee Westwood, 2 Luke Donald and 3 Kaymer) and six of the leading 10 (5 McDowell, 6 Rory McIlroy and 9 Paul Casey).

Australian Aaron Baddeley (Photo: Volvo in Golf)

On the downside, notable absences include Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker, Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar – ranked fourth, seventh, eighth and 10th, respectively. In fact, the only US player in the field is Ryan Moore, ranked 39th; while the sole Australian is 50th-ranked Aaron Baddeley (leapfrogging Adam Scott, Jason Day, Geoff Ogilvy and Robert Allenby, though he is a winner on this year’s US PGA Tour). Furthermore, defending champion Ross Fisher has just one top-10 European Tour finish this season.

But those issues can be overlooked, shaded by the progress made since the first Volvo World Match Play at Finca Cortesín in 2009. There are, for example, three other former major champions in the 2011 field: Retief Goosen (2001 and 2004 US Open), Paul Lawrie (1999 British Open) and Y.E. Yang (2009 US PGA).

The rest of the field comprises two additional 2011 European Tour winners, Álvaro Quirós (Dubai Desert Classic) and Nicolas Colsaerts (Volvo China Open); Søren Kjeldsen (winner of the final Volvo Masters, at Valderrama in 2008); local Málaga favourite Miguel Ángel Jiménez (gaining a place in the field after Robert Karlsson, as winner of the 2010 Dubai World Championship, withdrew); Fransesco Molinari; Johan Edfors; Jhonattan Vegas, the Venezuelan rookie who won his first US Tour title in January; Korean wunderkind Seung-yul Noh; and Anders Hansen.

The 24 players have been divided into eight round-robin groups of three players (according to their world rankings) to play each other on Thursday and Friday. Sixteen players will qualify for the knock-out quarter-finals on Saturday; and the semi-finals and final will be played on Sunday.


RESULTS: Poulter beats Donald in final


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