The European Tour heads to Bulgaria this week for the Volvo World Match Play Championship at the impressive Thracian Cliffs Golf and Beach Resort on the Black Sea Coast.
When the action gets underway on Thursday, it will mark the first time the European Tour has staged an event in Bulgaria.
Last year, Nicolas Colsaerts defeated Graeme McDowell in the final at Finca Cortesin to notch his second European Tour victory.
Both players are in action at the Volvo World Match Play again this year, and the likes of Ian Poulter, Bo Van Pelt, Francesco Molinari, Peter Hanson and Branden Grace have joined them.
The 24-man field is split into eight groups of three, with each player seeded based on their world ranking.
The top two from each group will advance to Saturday morning’s last 16, with the quarter finals staged later that day and the semi-finals and final taking place on Sunday.
The tournament will be played at Thracian Cliffs, a Gary Player-designed cliff-top masterpiece offering staggering views of the Black Sea. According to the nine-time major champion:
“You will not find a golf course like this anywhere else on the planet.”
Players will need control of their ball flight, a sharp short game and the ability to hit a number of different shaped shots to succeed here.
The bookmakers have installed Poulter as the 7/1 favourite, and he can never be discounted in matchplay, but I’d be tempted to look elsewhere given his recent form.
Graeme McDowell, at 8/1 with Ladbrokes, will fancy his chances this week. The Ulsterman is a fine exponent of matchplay golf, as he’s consistently demonstrated over the past decade. Last year’s runner up will be supremely confident after his Heritage victory at the end of April, and he’s a proficient wind player – something that could be a factor this week. McDowell is also grouped with Chris Wood and Stephen Gallacher, one of the more favourable draws.
Branden Grace, at 20/1 with Ladbrokes, looks well priced this week. His form has been solid, if unspectacular, over the past month and he’ll be looking to step it up this week. Grace is a gritty competitor and someone with all the tools to succeed around Thracian Cliffs, especially if the weather turns bad. He faces a tough match against Colsaerts but he’ll be confident of defeating Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the group stages.
Brett Rumford, at 25/1 with Ladbrokes, is generously priced this week. The Australian won the Ballantine’s Championship and the Volvo China Open is consecutive weeks in April and May and he’ll be well rested after a recent break. His course management and immense short game are assets on any golf course, and I see no reason why he can’t replicate the late Seve Ballesteros and win three tournaments in row.
Volvo World Match Play Championship advised bets:
4pts each way on Graeme McDowell at 8/1 with Ladbrokes
3pts each way on Branden Grace at 20/1 with Ladbrokes
3pts each way on Brett Rumford at 25/1 with Ladbrokes