Poults eyeing KO double

Ian Poulter is unbashfully a man with a mission heading into this week’s Volvo World Match Play Championship.

Ian Poulter is unbashfully a man with a mission heading into this week’s Volvo World Match Play Championship at the Finca Cortesin Golf Club in Casares, Andalucia, in Spain.

In the 47th edition of this historic event, the colourful, ever-tweeting Englishman has set his sights on taking on and beating the 24 global stars and 13 nationalities in the elite field in order to become the first player to successfully defend his title since Ernie Els racked up his second hat-trick of victories in 2004.

Before that the only men to have claimed the title on a back-to-back basis were Gary Player, Hale Irwin and the late Seve Ballesteros.

Apart from his victory in this event, Poulter has also won the 2010 WGC-Accenture Match Play championship to confirm his reputation for being one of the game’s finest match players, so his target this week is not an unrealistic one.

And this especially so in view of the fact that the man he beat in last year’s Volvo Match Play final was Luke Donald, the 2011 Accenture champion and another fine match play competitor whose good form has seen him see-sawing between the World No 1 and 2 spots for more than a year now.

“I love the cut and thrust of match play and find it a refreshing change from the usual stroke play format we play week in week out on the Tours,” said Poulter, who will be making his first appearance on the European Tour this year.

“The fact it is Ryder Cup year, and I think, it will make it (the Volvo Match Play) even more exciting with every match from the group stages to the final giving a chance to all aspiring team members to impress Captain Olazábal before Medinah.”

Spain’s Sergio Garcia, the big-hitting Alvaro Quiros and Rafael Cabrera Bello are the men expected to carry the hopes of local supporters, while South African Branden Grace is targeting a clean sweep of Volvo titles following his successes in the Volvo Golf Champions and Volvo China Open – and this after having earlier won the Joburg Open only months after graduated from the European Tour’s Qualifying School.

If he can win again, he would also become the first player to win four times in the season after his graduation.

Grace is one of four South Africans in the field, the others being two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen, making his 11th appearance in this week’s event – the most of any player in the field – 2011 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel and the current Asian Tour Order of Merit leader Jbe Kruger..

The 2006 champion, Paul Casey, another of the games outstanding match play exponents, won’t be playing this year, an on going shoulder injury having forced him to make a late withdrawal, but that has opened the door to the always threatening Swede Robert Karlsson to get himself back into the Ryder Cup race this year..

With Poulter spearheading them, England, with five players in the field, will have the most of any nation, followed by South Africa with four, Spain (3), Northern Ireland (2) and Sweden (2).

Australia, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Scotland and the United States will all be represented by one player.

The players, divided into eight groups of three, play in a round-robin group format on Thursday and Friday to decide which 16 players will progress to Saturday’s knock-out stage with the semi-finals and final set to be played on Sunday.

The first 16 players have been seeded based upon their Official World Ranking Points as of Monday 14 May 2012. The eight un-seeded players will be drawn at random on Tuesday 15 May 2012 at 13:30 local time.