Match Play guide
Preview, stats and betting tips for this week's Volvo Match Play Championship in Bulgaria.
Last Updated: 15/05/13 11:12pm
The European Tour breaks new ground this week, as it heads to Bulgaria for the first time in its history.
After three years in southern Spain, the Volvo Match Play Championship will now be played along cliff tops overlooking the Black Sea.
Designed by Gary Player, Thracian Cliffs enjoys some of the most amazing vistas in world sport and the course has already been dubbed the 'Pebble Beach of Europe'.
In many ways the scenery is far superior to even that of the famed Monterey Peninsula of California, as the spectacular cliff layout on the Bulgarian coast welcomes 24 of golf's leading professionals.
Once again, the players will be divided into eight groups of three, with each competitor playing 18-hole matches against the two other golfers in his group.
These round robin games will be contested on Thursday and Friday, with the top-two players in each group qualifying for the knock-out stages to be held over the weekend.
The last 16 and quarter-final ties will be held on Saturday, with the semi-finals and final on Sunday.
Those who reach the final will play a total of six 18-hole matches over four days.
Last Ten Weeks
Player: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10
Felipe Aguilar: 6 / MC / MC / MC / - / - / 2 / 40 / 8 / -
Thomas Aiken: - / Won / 11 / - / - / - / - / - / MC / -
Kiradech Aphibarnrat: - / 4 / Won / 5 / - / - / MC / 11 / 12 / -
George Coetzee: 53 / 17 / 57 / 70 / - / MC / - / - / - / -
Nicolas Colsaerts: 18 / - / - / - / - / MC / MC* / 8 / MC / -
Jamie Donaldson: 63 / - / - / - / MC / MC / MC / - / - / -
Gonzalo F'dez-Castano: 43 / - / 3 / - / MC / 20 / 44 / - / - / MC
Stephen Gallacher: 53 / - / 22 / 38 / - / - / - / 6 / 24 / -
Branden Grace: 49 / - / MC / MC / - / 18 / - / - / 33 / 48
Peter Hanson: 8 / - / - / - / 22 / 50 / Wd / - / - / 72
Thongchai Jaidee: - / 43 / 33 / 10 / - / - / - / 6 / 4 / -
Scott Jamieson: 23 / - / 17 / MC / - / - / - / MC / 66 / -
Shane Lowry: MC / - / - / MC / 15 / - / 69 / MC / - / -
Graeme McDowell: 3 / - / 45 / - / - / MC / Won / - / - / MC
Francesco Molinari: 28 / - / 34 / 15 / - / MC / MC / - / - / MC
Geoff Ogilvy: 47 / 61 / MC / MC / - / - / - / - / 38 / MC
Thorbjorn Olesen: 53 / - / 7 / Wd / - / 6 / - / MC / - / MC
Carl Pettersson: 49 / MC / 21 / 65 / - / 61 / 35 / - / - / 68
Ian Poulter: 28 / - / 21 / - / 37 / MC / - / - / - / MC
Brett Rumford: - / 71 / - / MC / - / - / - / Won / Won / -
Henrik Stenson: 39 / - / 8 / 2 / - / 18 / - / - / MC / 5
Richard Sterne: 12 / 38 / 8 / - / - / 25 / MC / - / - / -
Bo Van Pelt: 39 / - / MC / MC / - / 20 / MC* / - / 6 / 62
Chris Wood: 43 / 4 / Wd / - / - / - / - / - / - / -
MC* - Missed Additional 54-Hole Cut
2013 WGC ACCENTURE MATCHPLAY CHAMPIONSHIP
This Year's Performances at Ritz-Carlton
Felipe Aguilar: (-)
Thomas Aiken: (-)
Kiradech Aphibarnrat: (-)
George Coetzee: (Rd 1)
Nicolas Colsaerts: (Rd 3)
Jamie Donaldson: (Rd 1)
Gonzalo F'dez-Castano: (Rd 3)
Stephen Gallacher: (Rd 1)
Branden Grace: (Rd 1)
Peter Hanson: (Rd 2)
Thongchai Jaidee: (Rd 1)
Scott Jamieson: (-)
Shane Lowry: (Rd 3)
Graeme McDowell: (Q-F)
Francesco Molinari: (Rd 1)
Geoff Ogilvy: (-)
Thorbjorn Olesen: (Rd 2)
Carl Pettersson: (Rd 2)
Ian Poulter: (S-F)
Brett Rumford: (-)
Henrik Stenson: (Rd 1)
Richard Sterne: (Rd 2)
Bo Van Pelt: (Rd 2)
Chris Wood: (Rd 1)
(-) - Did Not Qualify
Thracian Cliffs: Par 72; 7,291 yards
Tournament Winners at Finca Cortesin (Last Three Years):
2012: Nicolas Colsaerts
2011: Ian Poulter
2009: Ross Fisher
Note: Tournament not staged in 2010
The unpredictability of the match play format and fact this year's renewal is taking place over a new course that has never before hosted a European Tour event means that finding a winner this week is open to a number of variables.
But that said, there are undoubtedly players who seem to thrive on the challenge of match play and have earned themselves the tag of specialists. There are a number of such players in the field this week, most notably Ian Poulter who has been installed as favourite by Sky Bet.
But although Poulter has already expressed his delight at the chance to test his match play skills once again and spoken about how it could help kickstart his stuttering season, his recent poor form provides enough reason to take him on this week - especially at such a monster lay-out where length will definitely help.
By contrast, Henrik Stenson has some of the hottest form of any player on the planet this term. The Swede looks back to his very best, illustrated by his 5th placed finish at Sawgrass last week, and currently ranks 1st for G.I.R and 2nd for Driving Accuracy on the PGA Tour. Throw in some match play pedigree in the form of his Accenture win back in 2007 and the big Scandinavian looks worthy of a bet.
Defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts is another with proven match play pedigree having won this last time out on the back of a run to the semi-finals 12 months earlier. His monstrous and effortless length gives him the intimidation factor in this format and also offers an undoubted advantage around a course that could measure up to 7,921 yards. The Belgian has been making some very positive noises about defending his crown and, despite an untimely hiccup which saw an airline temporarily lose his clubs earlier in the week, appears primed to go well.
Two-time Accenture champion and major winner Geoff Ogilvy has to be respected, as does red-hot fellow Aussie Brett Rumford who is looking to complete a European Tour hat-trick this week. But travelling and fatigue look likely to undermine the latter's efforts and instead we'll put up Thorbjorn Olesen as another to keep an eye on. Powerful, consistent and a superb putter, the young Dane looks to be developing into the world-class operator many tipped him to be this season. Although he's had a couple of missed cuts in recent weeks, the 22-year-old has top-10s at Bay Hill and Augusta to his credit this term and could be inspired by his return to Europe.
2pts Henrik Stenson at 8/1
2pts Nicolas Colsaerts at 8/1
1pt e.w. Thorbjorn Olesen at 16/1 (1/2 1,2)