With is a little over four months to go until the Ryder Cup, the Volvo World Matchplay is the perfect tournament for prospective players to impress European captain Jose Maria Olazabal.
The top three players in the world – Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Lee Westwood – are all skipping this event, presumably assuming their spots in the European Ryder Cup team are nailed down, which means that the door is open for the likes of Martin Kaymer, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell to make a real statement of intent.
Poulter returns as defending champion and will definitely be considered as a favourite to receive one of the captain’s picks, if he does not earn an automatic spot, because of his very impressive matchplay record.
“I love the cut and thrust of matchplay and find it a refreshing change from the usual strokeplay format we play week in, week out,” said Poulter. “With the fact it’s Ryder Cup year, I think it will be even more exciting.”
The only American in the field is Brandt Snedeker, who is obviously keen to show the American Ryder Cup captain what he can do.
World Matchplay format
The format for the World Matchplay is a little different, instead of a knockout tournament from the get-go, the 24 players first enter a round robin phase of eight groups of three players, with each player playing the other two in their group and the top two from each group qualifying for the knockout phase of the competition.
South African groups
Charl Schwartzel and Retief Goosen have been drawn in the same group for the Volvo World Match Play Championship.
The other man in their group will be long-hitting Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts.
Jbe Kruger will have his work cut out for him if he is to qualify for the knock-out rounds of the competition after being drawn in the same group as Graeme McDowell and Robert Karlsson, while Branden Grace will have to beat either Brandt Snedeker or Thomas Bjorn to advance.
Defending champion Ian Poulter has been drawn alongside compatriot Tom Lewis and Australian John Senden, in what should be a fairly straight forward group.
Top seed Martin Kaymer will face Spaniard Rafael Cabrera Bello and the Englishman Richard Finch, who is the lowest ranked player in the field at 214.
World Matchplay Group Draw
(seeded positions in brackets based on world rankings):
(1) Martin Kaymer, (16) Rafael Cabrera Bello, (24) Richard Finch
(4) Graeme McDowell, (13) Robert Karlsson, (20) Jbe Kruger
(2) Justin Rose, (15) Robert Rock, (19) Darren Clarke
(3) Charl Schwartzel, (14) Nicolas Colsaerts, (18) Retief Goosen
(5) Sergio Garcia, (12) Alvaro Quiros, (22) Tetsuji Hiratsuka
(8) Ian Poulter, (9) John Senden, (23) Tom Lewis
(6) Peter Hanson, (11) Paul Lawrie, (21) Camilo Villegas
(7) Brandt Snedeker, (10) Thomas Bjorn, (17) Branden Grace