Lowdown:
A supremely strong field of 24 players has assembled at Finca Cortesin Golf Club in Spain for the return of the Volvo World Matchplay Championship. Six of the world’s top nine players will tee it up.

The Volvo World Matchplay makes a welcome return to the European Tour schedule after a one-year break. As in 2009, Finca Cortesin in Andalucia, Spain will host the event. The field size has been increased from 16 to 24 for this year’s tournament. The players have been split into eight groups of three for a round-robin format over Thursday and Friday to decide the top 16 who will go on to contest the title over the weekend.

In 2009 England’s Ross Fisher took the victory, beating Anthony Kim of the USA in the final. The World Matchplay has a long and prestigious history. First contested in 1964, it was hosted by Wentworth Golf Club every year until 2007. It’s an event that was won five times by the late Seve Ballesteros and the group featuring World Number 1 Lee Westwood has been named after the five-time Major Champion.

Joining Westwood in the Seve Ballesteros group are Denmark’s Anders Hansen and Aaron Baddeley of Australia.

World Number two Luke Donald heads the Mark McCormack group and will play his first match against Ryan Moore of the USA on Thursday. He’ll then face an enthralling battle against fellow Englishman and defending champion Ross Fisher on Friday.

Martin Kaymer of Germany is the top ranked player in the Arnold Palmer group. He’s up against fellow USPGA winner Y.E. Yang and another Korean golfer, Seung-yul Noh.

The Ian Woosnam group features 2010 Major champions Graeme McDowell and Louis Oosthuizen as well as Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas. Rory McIlroy faces Retief Goosen and Nicolas Colsaerts in the Gustaf Larson group while Paul Casey, Alvaro Quiros and Soren Kjeldsen will fight it out in the Greg Norman Group.

2011 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel takes on home favourite Miguel-Angel Jimenez on Thursday in the Assar Gabrielson group, he will also play Sweden’s Johan Edfors in the round-robin. The final Gary Player grouping includes 2010 Ryder Cup stars Francesco Molinari and Ian Poulter together with 1999 Open Champion Paul Lawrie.

Designed by Cabell Robinson, the course at Finca Cortesin opened for play in 2006. It’s a fantastic layout overlooking the Mediterranean on one side and spectacular mountains on the other.

Venue:
Finca Cortesin Golf Club, Spain
Date: May 19-22
Course stats: par 72, 7,380 yards
Purse: €3,400,000
Defending Champion: Ross Fisher

TV Coverage:
Thursday 19 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 1pm
Friday 20 – Live on Sky Sports 1 from 9am
Saturday 21 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 9am
Sunday 22 – Live on Sky Sports 3 from 1pm

Player Watch:

Luke Donald – Arguably the most on-form player in the world right now. He’s finished in the top-10 on his last seven straight starts and was Accenture Matchplay Champion earlier this season.

Alvaro Quiros – The Spaniard will relish playing on home soil and his aggressive style of golf should be suited to this format. He makes plenty of birdies and eagles and, if he gets on a good streak will be tough to beat.

Martin Kaymer – Another fine exponent of the matchplay format, Kaymer will be looking to get back in the winner’s circle here.

Key hole: Any hole can prove to be a crucial turning point in a matchplay contest but the par 4 13th is generally regarded to be Finca Cortesin’s signature hole. 413 yards, a water hazard guards the left side of the fairway as well as protecting the front of the green.

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