KAVARNA, Bulgaria — The €3 million Volvo World Match Play Championship couldn’t come soon enough for Ian Poulter. It also comes at exactly the right time for Graeme McDowell.
Poulter arrives in Bulgaria after a horrid run of form, looking forward to his favorite type of golf. McDowell, on the other hand, has no problems with his form. Everything in his world seems to be in perfect alignment.
The Englishman has missed his last two cuts – The Players Championship and Masters. He began the year with a T-9 in the Hyundia Tournament of Champions before reaching he semi-finals of the WGC Accenture World Golf Championship. However, in the run up to the Masters his best finish was T-21 from three events.
“I’m not overly happy with my performance the last couple of weeks,” Poulter admitted. “I think it’s good timing. I have had two poor weeks.
“I’m a confident person. I would expect to put myself under pressure this week to go out there and play well. It’s match play. I love the format, and I just think it’s come at the right time of year for me.”
McDowell also missed the cut at The Masters and The Players Championship, but he sandwiched those events around victory in the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head.
“My form is really good,” McDowell said. “I missed the cut last week in Jacksonville but just never really got going there. The golf course didn’t set up well for me. But my game is ticking over nicely.”
McDowell reached the quarterfinals of the WGC-Accenture earlier this year, his best finish in that event. The Northern Irishman grew up on match-play golf before going to the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Although he earned the winning point in the 2010 Ryder Cup, he says he’s wasn’t always great in the format when he first turned professional.
“I’ve probably been a little guilty in my early years as a professional of being too aggressive in match play, and taking on stuff that perhaps I wouldn’t generally do in stroke play.
“I think it’s about striking a balance between playing the man and playing the golf course. I kind of got my head around that a little bit better this year in Tucson (the WGC-Accenture venue). I got a little bit of a run going there, so hopefully I’ll be using that strategy again this week.”
McDowell is drawn in a group that features Chris Wood and Stephen Gallacher. Poulter heads a trio including Thomas Aiken and Thongchai Jaidee. Other headline players to look out for are lone American Bo Van Pelt, in-form Brett Rumford, defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts, a resurgent Henrik Stenson and two-time WGC-Accenture Match Play winner Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion.
So there is much competition for the €800,000 first-place check, but it comes as no surprise that Poulter is a 7/1 favorite with British bookmakers Ladbrokes to get his game back in shape and win this week.
Who would bet against the Ryder Cup star when he makes statements like: “Match play for me is always good timing. I wish we played 27 match play events a year!”