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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Branden Grace  (Getty Images)
Branden Grace (Getty Images)
Branden Grace beat defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts on the opening day of the Volvo World Match Play Championship – although the Belgian knows all too well that this is far from the end of his tournament.

Grace raced into a five-hole lead at the turn before Colsaerts won the tenth and 12th to get back to three down with five to play.

Colsaerts' hopes of an unlikely win effectively ended when he bogeyed the 14th and Grace deservedly closed out a 4 and 3 win on the next, but in the group format he can still qualify for the last 16.

The big hitter did not in fact win either of his two 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 Tournament champion also lost to Goosen.

Carl Pettersson, who has rejoined The European Tour in a bid to qualify for the Ryder Cup, gave an early demonstration of what he is capable of in Bulgaria.

The Swede showed his match play prowess with a comfortable victory over Thorbjørn Olesen in their opening group game at Thracian Cliffs.

Pettersson went in front when a par was good enough to win the second hole and was never caught, four birdies and 11 pars enough to secure a 4 and 3 victory on the 15th green.

Arguably the best game of the day saw Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño beat Jamie Donaldson on the 18th after Donaldson threatened to escape with a half after being four down with seven to play.

The Welshman birdied the 12th, won the 14th after hitting a recovery shot left-handed and got back to one down with another birdie on the 16th, but then saw his birdie on the 18th matched by Fernandez-Castaño.

Another surprise looked on the cards in the penultimate match of the day as 2011 champion and Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter found himself two down to Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee.

Poulter started with three birdies in a row, the first of which was matched by Jaidee, but then saw his second shot to the fourth disappear over the cliff to the Black Sea below.

By the 11th Poulter, who won four points out of four in Europe's triumph at Medinah last year, was one down but after getting back to level with a birdie on the 12th, he bogeyed the next two holes.

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