Thomas Aiken is one of four South Africans in an elite 24-man field for the Volvo World Match Play Championship which takes place in Bulgaria next week.
The other South African players are ‘Volvo specialist,’ Branden Grace, the winner of the 2012 Volvo Golf Champions and the Volvo China Open, George Coetzee and Richard Sterne.
Australian Brett Rumford won the 2013 Volvo China Open on Sunday and in doing so qualified for the championship, while a resurgent Henrik Stenson received the coveted sole invitation on offer. They complete the field that includes 14 of world’s top 50 challenging for the title at the breath-taking Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort in Bulgaria from 16 May.
Rumford, who also won the Ballantine’s Championship the previous week and has risen from 138th to 76th on the Official World ranking, was ecstatic to win his first Volvo title and qualify for the Volvo World Match Play Championship. Rumford said, “I feel very honoured to have won this event, and one of the great things about it is that it gets me into a fantastic event like the Volvo World Match Play Championship. It’s another stepping stone in my career, and I’m really looking forward to teeing it up against so many great players.”
Stenson, born in Volvo’s hometown Goteborg, won the 2007 WGC Accenture Match Play and is excited to be back in the field for the first time since 2009. On hearing the news that he had received the only invitation on offer, Stenson said, “I am delighted to receive this invite from Volvo. I know a lot of players were in the mix so I was thrilled to hear that I had been the lucky one as I love the cut and thrust of match play and can’t wait to get to Bulgaria. We don’t often go to a completely new venue and country, so I am really looking forward to having a look around and to playing at Thracian Cliffs for the first time – it looks really beautiful.”
The 2013 field contains a strong showing of proven match play stars, namely five of our 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, Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Nicolas Colsaerts, the defending champion,
Stand-out US PGA Tour players world number 26, American Bo Van Pelt and American-based Swedish star world number 37, Carl Pettersson are making their first appearance in the Volvo World Match Play Championship while Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy is returning for the first time since 2005. Other notable Championship debutantes include Masters stand-out and world number33 Thorbjorn Olesen and world number 31 Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano from Spain who will be competing for an increased prize fund of €3,000,000 (€250,000 more than 2012) with the eventual winner taking home a €800,000 first prize.
The 2013 Championship marks both 50 years since the inaugural World Match Play Championship and Volvo’s 130th title sponsorship in men’s professional golf as well as their 80th tournament on the European Tour.