KARVARNA, Bulgaria – Just as well the words “match play” are placed after “Volvo World” and before “Championship,” because we’ll probably never see a European Tour stroke-play event around Thracian Cliffs.
Make that definitive never.
Thracian Cliffs is a stunning location. Hard by the Black Sea some 220 miles from Bulgarian capital Sofia, Gary Player has somehow carved 18 undulating holes into sheer white cliffs that will provide stunning television pictures. Whether it produces stunning golf is another story.
But then you don’t need stunning golf in match play. You just need to beat the other guy. That’s why players were being ultra diplomatic when asked about the golf course.
“It’s an interesting course,” Geoff Ogilvy said. “It’s a stunning bit of land. I don’t know if I’ve been in a place as impressive – a bit like Torrey Pines.
“There’s some extreme type golf holes out there. It’s perfect for match play. I’m glad we’re not adding them (strokes) all up. I think there could be a few train-wreck holes out there.
“There will be a lot of birdies and quite a lot of others. So I think that’s probably good for match play.”
There will be a lot of “others.” Many holes are hard by the sea, with red stakes along the fairway highlighting lateral water hazards. From the fourth tee to the 10th, the sea is on the right. That stretch is a slicer’s nightmare.
The holes turn inland from the 11th, but that stretch is just as tricky. Perhaps the eighth sums up the course perfectly — it measures 231 yards, but is played straight downhill with the green sitting right next to the Black Sea.
“It’s like an overdrawn version of the seventh at Pebble Beach,” Graeme McDowell said. “It’s seven at Pebble times three or four. It plays 44 yards downhill. Then you kind of have to factor in wind. It’s a pretty unique hole.”
McDowell agrees with Ogilvy that he wouldn’t want to play Thracian Cliffs with a card and pencil in his hand.
“It would be a tough stroke play golf course, no doubt about it,” McDowell said. “There would be golf balls flying everywhere, literally.
“It’s going to be a good match-play course. There’s going to be concessions in the middle of the fairway here, there and everywhere.”
Make no mistake about it, Thracian Cliffs will look good on TV and should provide the perfect setting for one of the game’s oldest match-play event. Just don’t expect future Bulgarian Opens on the European Tour to be played here. Let’s give Carl Pettersson the last word on this issue.
“I think if it was a stroke-play event I would be a little nervous right now,” Pettersson said.