The European Tour stages its first event in Bulgaria this week as a host of big names head to the inimitable Thracian Cliffs for the Volvo World Match Play Championship.

The tournament started life as the Piccadilly World Match Play in 1972 and, despite numerous changes of sponsor, it was played at the Wentworth Club until 2007.

The next three Volvo World Matchplays took place at Finca Cortesin in Marbella, Spain, before Volvo and IMG announced the tournament would undertake a yearly rotation.

The list of past winners is as prestigious as the event itself, with the likes of Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Greg Norman, Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros all triumphing at the Match Play.

Nicolas Colsaerts defeated Graeme McDowell in the final of last year’s Volvo World Matchplay, and both players are in the field again this year.

They are joined by 22 other players, including Ian Poulter, Geoff Ogilvy, Peter Hanson, Branden Grace and Bo Van Pelt.

Thracian Cliffs is a Gary Player-designed cliff-top course that offers spectacular views out to the Black Sea.

According to the nine-time major champion: “You will not find a golf course like this anywhere else on the planet.”

It’s a sentiment that’s been shared by a number of the players in the field this week. Indeed, Poulter added: “Having seen pictures of Thracian Cliffs and heard many great things about the course, I think it’s going to be a very special week.”

The course plays 7,291 yards from the back tees, and it’s eight cliff-top holes, exposed nature and numerous water hazards will challenge everyone in the field.

Venue: Thracian Cliffs Golf Club, Kavarna, Bulgaria
Date: May 16-19
Cours stats: Par 72, 7,921 yards
Purse: €3,000,000
Defending Champion: Nicolas Colsaerts

TV Coverage:

Thursday 16 – Sky Sports 3 from 12pm
Friday 17 – Sky Sports 2 from 1pm
Saturday 18 – Sky Sports 3 from 1pm
Sunday 19 – Red Button

Player Watch

Nicolas Colsaerts – The defending champion is coming into some form and he’s a proficient exponent of Match Play golf, as he demonstrated last year, on debut at the Ryder Cup and at the WGC-Match Play.

George Coetzee – The highly-rated South African hasn’t played a lot of golf recently and he’ll be fully refreshed and determined to claim his first European Tour victory.

Brett Rumford
– The Australian’s exceptional short game will be a huge asset at Thracian Cliffs and he’s the European Tour’s form golfer, having notched back-to-back victories at the Ballantine’s Championship and Volvo China Open.

Key hole:

16th – Many matches will be won or lost on the 587-yard par-5 16th, au uphill hole that runs parallel to the sea and often plays into the teeth of the wind.