Tuesday, 14 May 2013
Nicolas Colsaerts   (Getty Images)
Nicolas Colsaerts (Getty Images)

Nicolas Colsaerts will defend his Volvo World Match Play Championship title as The European Tour breaks new ground in Bulgaria this week, but only after his father arrives on a hastily-chartered private jet with his clubs.

Colsaerts' first attempt to get his clubs and luggage to the spectacular Thracian Cliffs resort was thwarted by a strike at Brussels Airport.

Plan B saw his mother take his reserve set on a flight from Paris to Sofia, but that flight was cancelled and when she eventually arrived at midnight, the luggage had not made the journey.

It was only when he appealed on social media for help that staff at Brussels airport searched for and found the original missing clubs, allowing his father Patrick to bring them on a private plane arriving late on Tuesday night.

"It was pretty intense yesterday," said Colsaerts, who will face South Africa's Branden Grace and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the Ian Woosnam group as The European Tour takes to the eastern European country for the first time, the 40th different destination since its formation in 1972.

"It was either get my clubs or play with a random set which I did not want to do in the defence of my title.

"It has been disruptive. I wasted two days and I wanted to play today. But we travel enough to know that you have to deal with it. Thank God my father is going to be here tonight with some clothes and my clubs."

Ian Poulter had no such problems despite travelling all the way from Florida, where he missed the cut at the Players Championship on the US PGA Tour to follow a first missed cut of his career at the Masters Tournament in April.

But the 2011 champion will still be one of the favourites to win the first prize of €800,000 given his brilliant match play record, a record enhanced by winning four points out of four and inspiring Europe's amazing comeback at Medinah last September in The 2012 Ryder Cup.

"It's going to be a tough group, I'm going to have to play well," said Poulter, who faces Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee on Thursday and South African Thomas Aiken on Friday in the Assar Gabrielsson group.

"I love match play, that's no secret. I'm very much looking forward to getting back into the format. I think for me it's come at the right time, to get a bit of match play adrenalin going and see if I can push on my season from there.

"I'm not overly happy with my form the last couple of events but these weeks come up every now and then and match play for me is always good timing. I wish we played 27 match play events a year.

"It's especially good timing after two poor weeks. There is no real rhyme or reason why they were two poor weeks to be honest. I actually played quite nicely so I have to put it down to one of those things. Golf brings you back down to earth sometimes and makes you re-evaluate quickly.

"I'm a confident person and I'd expect to put myself under pressure this week to go out and play well. I'll be playing six out of seven weeks and I don't have two weeks off now until after September. It's a long run of tournaments in which I am looking forward to playing my best golf."

The 24-man field is split into eight groups on Thursday and Friday, with the top two from each advancing to the last 16 on Saturday morning. The quarter-finals will be played on Saturday afternoon with the semi-finals and final on Sunday.

Colsaerts did not actually win any of his group games last year, halving with Charl Schwartzel and losing to Retief Goosen, but went through after a play-off with Schwartzel after the former Masters champion also lost to Goosen.

The Belgian is looking to become the first player since Ernie Els in 2004 to successfully defend the title, while Australia's Brett Rumford is seeking a third win in succession after victories in the Ballantine's Championship and Volvo China Open.

The last player to achieve that feat was the late Seve Ballesteros in 1986.

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