Call me a traditionalist, but I’m not impressed with the new plans for the Volvo World Match Play, and it’s not just because my entire golf-watching life is packed with memories of classic matches on the West Course at Wentworth. The new Spanish venue faces a tough task in replacing that classic English course, but even if Finca Cortesin does excel, the altered format leaves a lot to be desired.
Previously, this was a straightforward knockout contest, played over four rounds between 16  players. Now, the same number of competitors are involved, and they are as high-class as ever, but instead of knock-out they’re split into four groups, to be settled over two days of round-robin 18-hole matches. The four group winners will then progress to the semi-finals, which revert to the old 36-hole knockout matchplay.
Another dubious change is that, rather than these group matches being settled in the usual way; (i.e. the matches conclude when one player has an unassailable lead); every match will be played over the full 18 holes. So should someone be eight up with seven to play, seven holes of virtually meaningless golf will have to be played. The smart money says this will be changed for next year.
Nevertheless, none of this prevents us from finding betting value, and the consequence may actually be to make our task a little easier. Whoever wins is going to have to play 54 holes, before potentially a further 72 holes over the weekend. That’s quite a marathon, and doesn’t bode well for any with fitness concerns.
Three players particularly spring to mind in this regard. Paul Casey makes his long-awaited return from a rib injury, and will need to be fully fit to cope with such a gruelling schedule. Of course, if he is fit, Paul would rate a massive contender given his extremely impressive matchplay record. Casey has won the Wentworth version before, and reached the final of this year’s WGC-Accenture Matchplay. Naturally, as he is our main hope amongst the Race to Dubai bets, I’ll be cheering him all the way, but it’s a huge task having not played for nearly three months. Likewise, Martin Kaymer only returned from a broken foot last week and may still be affected, while Jeev Milkha-Singh is suffering from a foot injury.