The opening group matches of the 48th Volvo World Match Play Championship were completed on Thursday as the two seeded players in each group of three went head-to-head.
2013-05-16 — /travelprnews.com/ — First out were Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño and Welshman Jamie Donaldson who shared the opening two holes before the Spaniard moved into birdie mode to go three-up at the turn. Donaldson fought back well to narrow the gap to one as they boarded the final tee, and two perfect approach shots to the green led to a pair of birdies which meant that first blood went by the narrowest of margins to the 32 year old from Madrid. Swede Carl Petterson was in fine form as he romped to a 4&3 victory over Thorbjørn Olesen. Afterwards he said, “It’s different from stroke play and I really do enjoy it. I wish we had more match play events. When I got the call to come here to the Volvo World Match Play, it was a thrill and I’m very happy I came.”
In the Greg Norman group, Francesco Molinari had a nightmare start driving into sand and then finding water. He finally had to concede the hole before even reaching the green, but showed real class by hitting straight back with no fewer than four straight birdies to take a 3-hole lead. His opponent Henrik Stenson sprung back into life and the two were all-square after 11 having only shared three of the holes. Molinari edged ahead again at the 15th, doubled his lead with a birdie at the next, and held on for a rollercoaster 2&1 win.
Next up was a real feature match of the opening round which saw defending championNicolas Colsaerts up against fellow-Volvo specialist Branden Grace. Between them they took all three Volvo European Tour titles in 2012, and it was Grace who took the early advantage going 5-up at the turn to take a commanding lead. Birdies at 10 and 12 gave the Belgian hope of a comeback, but pars at the next three were enough to see Grace safely through. Afterwards, the young South African said, “I don’t know what it is with the Volvo events and me but it’s been good. I’m definitely going to try to give it my all this week and see if we can make it three.”
The one American in the field, Bo Van Pelt, was off to a flying start against Richard Sterne, winning the opening two holes. Once again a strong comeback was staged as the younger man spoilt his opponent’s 38th birthday by winning five holes out of seven from the 6th. It was then Van Pelt’s turn for a comeback as he levelled the match at the 16th before pars at the closing two holes saw the first halved match of this year’s tournament. Peter Hanson and George Coetzee had a see-saw battle with the Swede prevailing on the 17th green having only halved six holes, and Ian Poulter let a triple birdie start and 2-hole lead over Thaichong Jaidee disappear as the Thai won 3&2. In the final match out, last year’s runner-up Graeme McDowell comfortably defeated Chris Wood by the day’s largest margin, 5&3.
As if to demonstrate the very real risk-reward nature of the course and how it is ideally suited to match play, a look at the statistics from the opening matches shows that of the 131 holes of golf played today, just 60 were halved. This sets the scene perfectly for this week’s championship as the status of each match can change in very little time. There will be no foregone conclusions and every prospect of high drama as these great golfers fight it out over the next three days.
Much is still to happen, and despite today’s results, no one is yet out of the tournament. Each of today’s golfers will play his second match tomorrow, meaning the unseeded golfer in each group will be playing twice – once in the morning and once in the afternoon. There will be many more birdies and thrills before the field is whittled down to the last 16 for the straight knock-out phases which begin on Saturday.