Steve takes a detailed look at this week's match play event, where he fancies a pair of Ryder Cup stars to have a great week. Read the The Punter's in-depth betting preview here...
“I think the market has the wrong favourite and for my money, G-Mac is the likeliest winner.”
The Volvo World Match Play Championship has a rich Wentworth based history. First staged back in 1964 and won by Arnold Palmer, the event was held at Surrey's finest every autumn until 2007 and some very famous players won the event there. Ernie Els managed it seven times!
The tournament was lost from the schedule in 2008 but reappeared in 2009 at Finca Cortesin in Spain. There was no tournament again in 2010, then after two years back at Finca Cortesin, the tournament moved to Bulgaria last year. After being staged in May for three years, the event has returned to its traditional autumn slot and this year it returns to England but sadly not Wentworth.
The field of 16 is split into four groups named Arnold Palmer, Mark McCormack, Assar Gabrielsson and Gustaf Larsson. The four players in each group play each other over the first three days and the top-two in each group progress to Saturday's quarter-finals. The semi-finals will be played on Sunday morning, with the final and the third place playoff being staged on Sunday afternoon.
Arnold Palmer Group
Mark McCormack Group
Assar Gabrielsson Group
Gustaf Larsson Group
The International Course, London Golf Course, Ash, Kent, England
Par 72, 7026 yards
The International Course is described as having a links-style feel with a number of short holes over water.
Live on Sky sports all five days - 09:30 and 14:30 on Wednesday, 11:30 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 09:30 on Sunday, with coverage behind the red button starting at 08:00.
Last Five Winners
2013 - Graeme McDowell
2012 - Nicolas Colsaerts
2011 - Ian Poulter
2010 - No event
2009 - Ross Fisher
2008 - No event
2007 - Ernie Els (Last event staged at Wentworth)
What Will it Take to Win The Volvo World Match Play?
Stick to those with a proven match play pedigree. Those with Ryder Cup experience and experience of either this event or the WGC World Match Play tend to do far better than those that haven't played much professional match play.
It's a unique format, very different to stroke play, and some players thrive playing it and others never seem to take to it. In the past, I've gone for attractively priced players with little or no match play experience but in recent years the penny has dropped and I stick to those proven to like this format.
The weather forecast suggests rain and fairly breezy conditions so an ability to play in bad weather and windy conditions in particular is likely to be a big plus this week.
Take a good look at the market after day one as there are often wild overreactions to an opening defeat or even a tied match. The format was changed to include groups after it moved from Wentworth and it's been the case that the market reacts too negatively to a group match defeat.
Graeme McDowell won every match he played 12 months ago but the three previous winners all lost at least one match and were matched at handsome odds in-running as a result.
Ross Fisher was defeated by Lee Westwood in the group stage of the 2009 edition and the next two winners fared even worse. Ian Poulter drew his first two matches and Nicolas Colsaerts drew his first and lost his second. Indeed, even he thought he was a goner and after Retief Goosen caused an upset, beating Charl Schwartzel in the final group match, the Belgian Bomber had to be woken up to play Schwartzel in a sudden-death playoff.
As an experienced Ryder Cupper and a previous winner of the WGC World Match Play I can see why Henrik Stenson heads the market but I'm not so sure he should. He enjoyed a good Ryder Cup in Scotland last month, winning all three matches when paired with Justin Rose but he lost his singles match to Patrick Reed and his recent match play form, prior to this year's Ryder Cup, has been pretty poor.
He lost to Francesco Molinari and Felipe Aguilar in this event last year and he's won just one match at the WGC World Match Play (the first round last year against Kiradech Aphibarnrat) since he was beaten in the semi-final by Tiger Woods in 2008 when defending the title.
Following the birth of his daughter, defending champion, Graeme McDowell, wasn't in brilliant form at the FedEx Cup playoffs but he was undefeated at the Ryder Cup and he looks a far better prospect than Stenson.
His draw looks good, he has form at the venue (third in the 2008 European Open but on the Heritage Course), and he's already successfully defended one title this year - the Open de France. I think the market has the wrong favourite and for my money, G-Mac is the likeliest winner.
In his first taste of professional match play, third favourite, Victor Dubuisson, beat G-Mac at the quarter-final stage of this year's WGC World Match Play before going on to lose to Jason Day in the final. He and G-Mac then made a great partnership at Gleneagles, winning both their matches, and he drew his singles tie with the experienced Zach Johnson so he's shown an immediate liking to this format but has he shown enough to warrant his relatively short price? I'm not sure he has and his missed cut at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship last week is excusable after the Ryder Cup but it isn't especially encouraging.
I've picked out two players from either side of the draw, hoping that I can achieve the nirvana of picking out both finalists. I've already set out my case for G-Mac and I think he looks a good thing to go all the way and defend. My other pick, is far more risky.
There's no denying that the Mark McCormack Group is the toughest on paper but I still think Jamie Donaldson is worth chancing. He opens up on Wednesday with a really tough match against the vastly experienced and in-form, Paul Casey and after playing Jonas Blixt on Thursday he'll face the American's star performer at the Ryder Cup, Patrick Reed, on Friday. Something's got to give and at least one fancied player is going to be disappointed but whoever does perform well in the 'group of death' will be confident of going all the way and there a number of reasons to suspect Donaldson will progress.
Back in August, he won the Czech Masters at the Albatross Golf Resort - a course Wayne 'Radar' Riley described as very similar to the London Club so that's a big plus. He was 10th here around the Heritage Course in 2008 so he's already shown an aptitude for the venue and he's in fine form at present but the main reason I like him is the fact that this event comes so soon after his terrific performance at the Ryder Cup.
If the truth be told, Donaldson's match play record wasn't anything to write home about before he made his Ryder Cup debut last month but he blossomed at Gleneagles and it was fitting that he secured the point that retained the cup when he thrashed Keegan Bradley 4 & 3.
I'll be amazed if that hasn't given him a lust for further match play success and I can see him getting on a roll this week.
Graeme McDowell @ 8.27/1
Jamie Donaldson @ 12.5
I'll be back later with previews for the other two events this week - the Hong Kong Open and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
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