The top four players on the European money list have managed to avoid each other in the draw for the Volvo World Matchplay Championship in Spain. The group stages will be played at Finca Cortesin close to Marbella and will take place on the 18th green, with the semi finals on Saturday and the final on Sunday.
To fit all three group games into two days the players in the first two groups play twice on Thursday and those in the last two groups do the same on Friday.
Europe’s top money earners Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Rory McIlroy and Paul Casey have been kept apart for the tournaments new round robin stage.
Current Race to Dubai leader Lee Westwood is seeded second and will be up against Camilo Villegas, Ross Fisher and India’s Jeev Milkha Singh.
Kaymer is up against Sergio Garcia, Robert Allenby and Oliver Wilson, McIlroy’s group is headed by Swede Henrik Stenson and includes Angel Cabrera and Simon Dyson.
The fourth quartet is made up of Paul Casey, returning from a torn rib muscle that has kept him sidelined since the start of August, Retief Goosen, Anthony Kim and Scott Strange.
Casey, Northern Ireland’s McIlroy and Germany’s Kaymer all have the chance to take the European number one spot from Westwood should they make the semi-finals.
Henrik Stenson became only the third European golfer to win the US PGA flagship event, The Players Championship in Sawgrass, last night with an excellent 12 under par. The other European winners were Sandy Lyle (1987) and Sergio Garcia (2008).
The 33 year-old Swede was joint second with Ian Poulter and Tiger Woods going into the final round, five shots behind German Alex Cejka. But Cejka had a disastrous start to his fourth round and never recovered his game, leaving the door wide open for the chasing pack.
Stenson hit six birdies in a very impressive final round to finish on 66 (-12) and it was only this amazing score that stopped Ian Poulter from winning the title. Poulter finished second with a solid round of 70, leaving him 8 under.
I’m sure plenty of bets were placed on Tiger Woods to win another tournament after round 3. But like Cejka he had a disappointing final round of 79 to finish in eighth place overall on 5 under.
Tiger Woods has failed to find consistency over four rounds since returning in February after eight months out with a knee injury. But both Henrik Stenson and Ian Poulter continue to move up the world rankings and are both looking to cement their positions with a majors victory in 2009.
Henrik Stenson is a good, solid, consistent golfer. But I love Ian Poulter’s cockiness and flambuoyant personality. Like snooker’s Ronnie O’Sullivan, Poulter brings excitement and cool to the game.
Poulter stood up to the extra publicity he received as Nick Faldo’s controversial Captain’s Pick for last year’s Ryder Cup team and appears to be cementing his place as one of the best golfers in the world.
The next step is for Ian Poulter to win a major; and the way he’s playing right now, this could be his year.