Europe's Ryder Cup stars relishing Bulgaria debut

4/19/2013 9:36:01 AM
Ian Poulter   (Getty Images)
Ian Poulter (Getty Images)
European Ryder Cup heroes Ian Poulter, the 2011 Volvo World Match Play Champion, Graeme McDowell, the 2010 US Open Champion, Peter Hanson, six-time European Tour winner, and Nicolas Colsaerts, the defending champion, head the latest list of stars to commit to the 2013 Volvo World Match Play Championship. 

The Championship will be played at the breathtaking Thracian Cliffs Course in Bulgaria from May 16-19, 2013. 

The elite Volvo World Match Play Championship, celebrating its 50th year in 2013, will gather 24 of the world’s best players to compete for this prestigious title via a merit-based qualification process designed to gather the highest quality international field. The final field will be confirmed shortly and the players will compete for an increased prize fund of €3,000,000 (€250,000 more than 2012) with the winner taking home €800,000. 

Also confirmed in the field is ‘Volvo specialist,’ Branden Grace, the winner of both the 2012 Volvo Golf Champions and Volvo China Open. He will be joined by Scott Jamieson, runner-up in the 2013 Volvo Golf Champions, Jamie Donaldson, winner of the 2013 Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Chris Wood, the 2013 Qatar Masters champion, and Shane Lowry, winner of the 2012 Portugal Masters. 

Poulter, known for his match play prowess, said: “Everyone knows I love match play and I can’t wait for this week as it’s one of my favorite tournaments of the year. Having played all around the world since I turned professional in 1994, it isn’t often I get to visit a new country so I am definitely looking forward to visiting Bulgaria. Having seen the photos of Thracian Cliffs and heard many great things about the course, I think it is going to be a very special week.”

Defending champion Colsaerts added: “I am really looking forward to defending my title at this new venue and am fired up for a week of match play golf. I really enjoy the format of this tournament and would love my first win of the year to come at the Volvo World Match Play Championship. It would be amazing to be able to successfully defend my title at Thracian Cliffs and win Bulgaria’s first full European Tour event.”

South African Grace said: “This is the one Volvo title I haven’t got yet so I am looking to have a great week and see how far I can go. I grew up watching Ernie Els win this championship seven times and I dreamt of following in his footsteps. Hopefully it is a good omen for me that it is being played on a course designed by another of my heroes, Gary Player.”

The Championship, owned by IMG and promoted together with Volvo, will generate worldwide media coverage, with approximately 1,600 hours of golf broadcast to half a billion households, has evolved considerably since moving from Wentworth in 2009, successfully securing a world-class field by qualification on merit, increasing the field to 24 players and revising the format.  The qualified players are divided into eight groups of three players to be played out on Thursday and Friday with 16 players progressing to Saturday’s knock-out stage with the semi-finals and final played on Sunday. 

The last three editions of the Volvo World Match Play Championships were held at Finca Cortesín in Spain and this move to the much-lauded Gary Player designed signature course marks the first time a full European Tour event will be played in Bulgaria. Framed by rugged coastal cliffs and the vast blue of the Black Sea, which can be viewed from each and every hole, Thracian Cliffs is arguably one of the most dramatic golf courses on earth. Gary Player once said: "You will not find a golf course like this anywhere else on the planet."