Our press officer in Spain brings you all the action from behind the scenes at the Volvo World Match Play Championship.
Man v Man
The Volvo World Match Play Championship always serves up drama and over the years has been compulsive viewing. Match play is a format that lends itself to excitement for the spectators, and it seems it is a popular change for the players too. Ian Poulter, a renowned match play exponent, is certainly a fan, saying he would have match play tournaments for half the season if he could. There are certainly some mouth-watering pairings ahead, with the stand-out match probably the clash of the Spaniards, Sergio Garcia v Alvaro Quiros. The beauty of match play, for us watching anyway, is that it is so difficult to predict. A player can play magnificently and shoot a 65 but if they run into an opponent who plays better, they are on their way home. It can also promote some aggressive displays of shot making, as each player tries to put the other one under pressure. Some fascinating battles await us, that is for sure.
Dressed for the occasion
As well as being a fierce match play competitor, Ian Poulter is also renowned for his fashion sense but his look this week owes much to his team at his clothing design company IJP, who came to his rescue when his luggage did not turn up in Spain. Joking with journalists that his clothes were more important than his clubs, Ian put in a quick mayday call to his base back in England and a new batch of his trademark trousers and shirts were sent out on the next flight to Malaga. Rest assured, the Ryder Cup star will be as colourful and identifiable as ever this week.
The celebrations continue
Manchester City footballers Gareth Barry and James Milner joined the Pro-Am here at Finca Cortesin, three days after winning the Premier League title in England on Sunday. It’s been quite a week so far for the midfield pair. After dramatically clinching their first title on Sunday with two injury time goals against QPR to deny rivals Manchester United, Barry and Milner enjoyed the celebrations with an open top bus parade through Manchester before flying out to Spain where Milner has a house. They joined fellow Englishman Robert Rock in the Pro-Am and although their team finished 22nd out of 24 teams, their joy continued when they received a text from England boss Roy Hodgson informing them of their selection to their country’s 23-man squad for Euro 2012. As Robert said, it might have been a bit awkward if one player got the call and the other didn’t, but alas, it all worked out, avoiding any potential walk-ins!
Anyone for tennis?
Sergio Garcia struggled a little with a knee injury at the Players Championship but I can report, with first-hand experience, that he is back to full fitness this week. The Spaniard joined your correspondent for a game of tennis on Wednesday, forming what looked on paper to be the most formidable looking doubles partnership since ‘the Woodies’, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, were cleaning up Grand Slams around the world. Sergio is something of an all-round sportsman – in addition to his golfing accomplishments he has also played football for Spanish Third Division side Borriol, the side he is President of – and he is also an extremely competent tennis player, as a close friend of Rafa Nadal. In order to test his knee, obviously, I very kindly allowed him to do most of my running around the court, while I guarded the net intently. I won’t divulge the result of the match, but let’s just say Sergio and I won’t be entering the doubles at Wimbledon this year.
The 500 club
Paul Lawrie becomes the latest member of an exclusive club this week, when he makes his 500th European Tour appearance. The 1999 Open Champion has come a long way since turning professional in the late 1980s and making his European Tour debut 20 years ago. Seven victories later, including the unforgettable Claret Jug at Carnoustie in the last Open Championship of the previous Millennium, and Paul is still as keen as ever, although he has ruled out trying to beat Sam Torrance’s record of 706 European Tour appearances. Having enjoyed a resurgence in the past two years, Paul stands on the verge of a second Ryder Cup appearance, some 13 years after making an impressive debut. This week, of course, is a good opportunity to show those match play skills once again.