THE WORLD Match Play Championship, not being staged this year for the first time since it began in 1964, will start a new era next season with a move from Wentworth to Spain and a new round-robin format.
The event, which lost sponsors HSBC after Ernie Els captured a record seventh title last October, is to be held at the Finca Cortesin course near Marbella. Volvo will be the new backers, prize money will be around £2.5million (€3.16m) and the field of 16 will be split into four groups.
Places will be offered to defending champion Els, the leading world-ranked player from each of Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Australasia and the Africa/Middle East region, four more from the world rankings, four from the European Tour Order of Merit and finally next year’s Volvo China Open champion.
The groups of four will play each other on the first two days over 18 holes, with the group winners progressing to the 36-hole semi-finals on the Saturday.
First prize will be approximately £585,000 (€741,000) – under HSBC it became a world-record £1million – with £350,000 (€443,300) for the runner-up down to £93,000 (€118,000) for those who finish bottom of their groups.
The season-ending Volvo Masters has been held in southern Spain every year 1988, but the Swedish car company will stage that for the last time at Valderrama this October, before switching their attentions to the Match Play.
The new season-ending event from next year will be the Dubai World Championship and the Order of Merit is being re-named the Race To Dubai.
Following the news that Volvo have signed a initial three-year deal, Els said: “The World Match Play Championship has meant a huge amount to me and I am delighted to hear the event is going to continue to grow even further in stature in the future.”
Sergio Garcia added: “It is fantastic that such a prestigious event as the World Match Play has chosen to move to a Spanish venue.”
George O’Grady, chief executive of the European Tour, said: “Both Volvo and the World Match Play Championship have a superb golfing pedigree, which makes them ideal partners.
“Volvo have title sponsored no fewer than 66 tournaments on the European Tour International Schedule, and the World Match Play Championship has a rich tradition. We are delighted the Championship will continue to be a celebration to the memory of its founder, Mark McCormack, and also excited by the new format.”
The International Management Group, promoters of the event since its birth, still hope to fill the gap on this year’s schedule caused by the absence of the Match Play.
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