Take Nicolas to defend title
Nicolas Colsaerts can win the Volvo World Match Play Championship for a second year running according to Ben Coley.
- Related Content
Let's not beat about the bush - the Volvo World Match Play Championship isn't everyone's cup of tea, and it's a world away from the event that once attracted Europe's finest to Wentworth.
Even were the field stronger, the format also causes plenty of consternation. For starters, match play is inherently a more volatile format than stroke play for the simple fact that the draw plays a big part in proceedings.
That's why you'll hear phrases like 'lottery' thrown around this week. Of course, it isn't a lottery, it's simply more volatile than stroke play, so it's a question of whether you're prepared to accept that your player could get knocked out because he's in the wrong part of the draw and not because he hasn't performed as you'd hoped.
I'm absolutely fine with it, especially as I've managed to find the last two match play winners. Volatility is negated by the fact that you can plot the draw and, of course, your man has less competitors to beat. We've had 400/1 winners in stroke play events so far this year so it's hardly like that always follows the form book either.
What I'm not convinced by is the system employed in this event. Eight groups of three will play round-robin matches over the first two days and two of them go through from each group. There's a lot of golf played just to eliminate eight players and the tournament loses intensity as a result.
That being said, Nicolas Colsaerts won the event last year after halving his first tie so perhaps I should embrace it a little more.
And it's Colsaerts who I believe rates the bet to defend the title he won with a hard-fought victory over Graeme McDowell at Finca Cortesin in Spain.
That venue has been replaced by Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort for this year's renewal, which is the first European Tour event to be hosted in Bulgaria.
However, while the new layout looks more visually appealing it would appear to share some similarities with its predecessor, chiefly that it's pretty long and completely exposed to wind.
Neither area creates a problem for Colsaerts, one of the longest hitters in world golf and a player who can hit all the shots with his irons - booming, high draws, low, running fades and everything in-between.
It's fair to say that his debut season on the PGA Tour hasn't gone entirely to plan, but he did beat Bill Haas and Justin Rose in the WGC-Accenture Match Play before losing to eventual champion Matt Kuchar in a further demonstration of his match play skills.
Throw in his win in this event last year and a fine Ryder Cup debut - even if he did lose his singles match to Dustin Johnson - and you have a player capable of joining the likes of Ian Poulter as one regarded as a format specialist.
I also like the fact that Colsaerts has had the chance to defend one European Tour title so far in his career and he did so superbly, going down fighting to Branden Grace in last year's Volvo China Open.
Most encouraging from that performance is the fact that he managed to do so despite a switch in course, and that gives me hope that he can repeat the trick in an event he's been looking forward to all season.
Colsaerts is drawn with Grace and Kiradech Aphibarnrat and while neither man can be quickly discounted, this is a whole new ball-game for the latter while Grace arrives after a long week at Sawgrass, an event Colsaerts decided to skip.
Missing the richest event on the PGA Tour shows a complete dedication to defending his title and Colsaerts merits a win only wager.
In an event like this it's hard to find concrete angles but I do think it makes sense to swerve players who were involved at Sawgrass last week.
Yes, one or two of them had the weekend to practice in what are world-class facilities having missed the cut, but that in itself isn't ideal preparation and perhaps Colsaerts' dominance over Graeme McDowell in last year's final owed something to the fact that the latter had flown over from a tough week in the States.
So, I'll avoid temptation to back wind-specialist Thorbjorn Olesen, whose bogey avoidance brilliance could make him hard to beat if par proves to be a good score on this track.
Instead, perhaps the format will allow George Coetzee to break through and land an overdue first European Tour win.
The burly South African came agonisingly close in Qatar earlier this year, again demonstrating his ability in the wind alongside some seldom seen courage to post a number that was unfortunate to be passed.
He's taken that form to America, making the cut in all starts bar the Masters in which he made his Augusta debut, and has been putting superbly both there and in Europe.
Coetzee is drawn with Peter Hanson and Shane Lowry and, perhaps crucially, it's Lowry who will have to play twice on Friday. Obviously, some players will cope with two games in a day but it has to be an advantage that Coetzee, like Colsaerts, gets to spread his first two matches across two.
Big George has had some problems getting his clubs out to Bulgaria but they should be resolved in good time and at 20/1 I can see him causing some real damage with his adjustable ball-flight and supreme length.
In truth there's little else to go on but arriving fresh could be a big factor this week so it's Colsaerts and Coetzee for me. As with last year, I've held back on the staking plan so I've the option to review the situation after the round-robin matches and see if there's any more value to be had.