Branden Grace will attempt to land the Volvo Slam at this week’s World Matchplay Championship as the South African bids to claim a hat-trick of titles in 2012 sponsored by the Swedish motor giants.
Grace, who picked up his maiden European Tour title at the Joburg Open in January, qualified for the Volvo Golf Champions the following week en route to defeating his boyhood heros Ernie Els and Retief Goosen in the playoff, before etching his name on the Volvo China Open in his last start.
Grace, who turns 24 on Sunday, now has the chance of entering the European Tour record books as he attempts to become the first Q-School grad to win four times the season after gaining his Tour card.
“The thought of a Volvo hat-trick has been definitely been in my mind,” said Grace, who faces Brandt Snedeker and Thomas Bjorn in the group stage at the delightful Finca Cortes in inSpain.
“I have had good feelings pretty much every time at a Volvo tournament. I managed to get on to the course this morning, and I am really, really feel comfortable and really looking forward to the week. The course is in great shape.
“It would be awesome getting three Volvo titles and getting the ‘Grand Slam’ and I’m definitely going to aim for that.
“I definitely think it's going to be a little bit different this week being matchplay but my form is still the same. I'm still hitting the ball well and giving myself chances. Especially in match play, if you can keep that going, it puts the pressure on the other guys.
“I haven't played matchplay for a long time, but it's something I really look forward to as a pro. I think the last time I played a match-play event I won as an amateur and that was nice and I think match play suits my game a little bit. I'm not a guy that gives up quickly, so I fight to the end and take it from there.
Another player who thrives on the matchplay format is defending champion Ian Poulter, who also won the WGC-Matchplay Championship in 2010 and owns a formidable Ryder Cup record.
“I love the cut and thrust of matchplay and find it a refreshing change from the usual strokeplay format we play week in week out on the Tour,” said Poulter, who is aiming to become the first player to defend the title since Ernie Els completed his second hat-trick at Wentworth in 2004.
Poulter will likely need to be on his game from the offset, however, given the challenge he faces from Australian John Senden and Englishman Tom Lewis, who spoke to Golfmagic at Hanbury Manor last week.
The players, divided into eight groups of three, play in a round-robin group format on Thursday and Friday. This will decide which 16 players progress to Saturday’s knock-out stage with the semi-finals and final played on Sunday.
Volvo World Matchplay Championship
Finca Cortesin, Andalucía, Spain
Thursday May 17 to Sunday May 20
Par-72; 7,380 yards
€3,400,000 (Winner: €800,000)
Ian Poulter defeated Luke Donald 2&1
Most wins: 7 (Ernie Els 1994, 1995, 1996, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2007)
Tournament record score: 10&8 (Paul Casey 2006 - 36-hole final)
Did you know?
The event was previously played at Wentworth Club, scene of next week’s BMW PGA.
Thursday: Sky Sports 3 from 1pm
Friday: Sky Sports 3 from 9am
Saturday: Sky Sports 3 from 9am
Sunday: Sky Sports 2 from 9am