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VOLVO WORLD MATCH PLAY CHAMPIONSHIP


May 14, 2013


Nicolas Colsaerts

Per Ericsson

Krassimir Guergov

Guy Kinnings

Ian Poulter

Henrik Stenson

Keith Waters


KAVAMA, BULGARIA

MICHAEL GIBBONS:  Good afternoon and welcome to our official opening press conference that will also incorporate the draw for the 2013 Volvo World Match Play Championship.
I'd just like to introduce our top table before we get going:  Guy Kinnings, Global Managing Director of IMG Golf; Krassimir Guergov, President of the Bulgarian Golf Association, Mr.Per Ericsson, who is president of Volvo Event Management, and a man who needs no introduction, Mr.Colsaerts, our defending champion; and Keith Waters, Chief Operating Officer of The European Tour.
We are just going to take some opening comments from our top table, and then we are going to move to the draw and then we'll open up for a Q&A.
So Per, if you would like to open us up, please, from Volvo's point of view, being here at the breathtaking Thracian Cliffs, first time.
PER ERICSSON:¬† Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you, on behalf of everyone at Volvo for joining us here at the 48th staging of the Volvo World Match Play.¬† We are very proud of bringing the first‑ever European Tour event to Bulgaria and Eastern Europe.
This is actually part of our strategy to bring our events around the world to markets of importance of Volvo's businesses‑‑ this is actually our 130th professional sponsorship of men's professional golf and it's actually also the 80th European Tour event from Volvo's side and about 170 countries will experience the same thing.¬† This week, Thracian Cliffs and Bulgaria, as a golf and holiday distinction will be showcased in its glory all over the world actually.
The match‑play format, as you know, is exciting, players is going head‑to‑head.¬† Everything can happen and will happen during these days.¬† Since last year, the players have qualified through The Race to Dubai or world golf rankings points; and therefore, we have a great field of players here this week.¬† From each and every continent of the world, 15 countries is represented here, and for all of us, this is the first time in Bulgaria.¬† If you would make a comparison with soccer, as you guys all know in Bulgaria, the guys that you don't know the name of, like Nicolas here, they are the Zlatans, the Ronaldos or Torres in soccer.¬† That's kind of the tournament we are actually hosting here in Bulgaria this week.
The prize fund is three million Euros, and the winner takes 800,000 Euros in a prize cheque going home on Sunday.¬† In addition to the prize fund, we have actually not one, not two, but three hole‑in‑one prizes.¬†
       We start off on the 7th with a very special prize. It's a Volvo Backhoe Loader worth 55,000 Euros.  You should have look at it.  And on the signature 8th, we have a normal, magnificent new Volvo V40 Cross Country, it's worth 30,000 Euros.  And then on the 17th, we have the masterpiece, the big one, it's the Volvo FH Truck, actually the strongest truck in the world, and it's worth 115,000 Euros.
And again, on these occasions, it's always the custom to thank people, and I would like to thank everyone for being part of The World Match Play but specifically I would like to address some thank you to first of all, Thracian Cliffs, George, are you there, and also to the Bulgarian Golf Association, European Tour as always, but last but not least, our partners, IMG.¬† And the most important thing to all of you in the media, thank you for coming and spreading the word about this event and I think this week will be an astonishing week because the weather forecast is beautiful, the field is excellent, and I can just say ‑‑ and this is very hard for me to say(speaking Bulgarian).
MICHAEL GIBBONS:  Thank you very much, Per, and excellent Bulgarian.
Mr.Kinnings, you have the floor.
GUY KINNINGS:  Thank you.  I won't risk my Bulgarian.
On behalf of IMG we are delighted to be here at this astonishing venue and with huge things to the vision of the gentleman on my left from Volvo and Krassimir, the Federation, the Tour, we are incredibly excited to be here for this tournament, which it's actually 50 years since the first World Match Play was played.  In the current climate, if you can do five years, people are pretty pleased; 50 years, we are truly delighted about.
Mark, and I'm delighted that his daughter, Leslie, is here, and Sarah Wooldridge, who worked with him for many years, created this event in 1964, just a few years after the company was created, and carefully arranged for our first client, Arnold Palmer to win it.
And since then, a long time at Wentworth, and moved to Spain, the vision we had was always to take golf to the world, get the most exciting players in front of emerging markets; and that couldn't be better than it is here this week with the people that help bring it all together.  It's a huge opportunity.  Mark would be extremely pleased in this, the 50th year.  We have staged 750 tournaments, I think 250 on The European Tour, and this event is very much at heart of what we do.  It's an event that we love and we are delighted to be here.
We are proud to work with Volvo.  Per has given you the stats.  They are a wonderful team to work with; Per has a vision for this tournament and all the other tournaments.  I think it's a testament to what Volvo have done to The European Tour; that they have supported through good times and bad, and always been there for golf and for The European Tour.
We also as a company have worked more and more in the last ten years in Eastern Europe and particularly in Bulgaria; a lot on the media side, my friend and colleague, Victor over there; and with the unique Krassimir who has helped on so many levels; and quite frankly, if not for his vision and Per's, we would not be here.
So I am very grateful to everyone involved, George and the whole team here.  It's also nice that the course is designed by another one of our original clients, Gary Player.
So thanks to the government and to the Bulgarian Golf Association.  The most important thing for all of us is that we have the players and we are grateful to having probably our most divergent field we have ever had.  I think there are 15 nationalities on display.
We have grateful to our defending champion to give his time up to be here.  He did wonderfully a year ago in winning here and a small preamble before starring on the stage at The Ryder Cup and showing what a star player he is, so we are grateful to him for being here.
There are some other players that we are very pleased made the little hop over from Sawgrass to have debutantes like Bo Van Pelt and Carl Pettersson, Graeme McDowell straight off his win at Hilton Head; there are so many players that are playing well because they have got to be in form to be getting into the tournament.
We are obviously also delighted to have our 2011 champion, Ian Poulter, who I think has always shown what a fantastic champion he was; and what he achieved at Medinah last year probably confirmed him as the finest Ryder Cup player.
And Henrik Stenson, who we are delighted accepted the invitation.  He's playing beautifully, thoroughly deserves it and I believe was born and bred near one of the outer car parks at Volvo headquarters in Gothenburg.  It was an easy choice.
Obviously in the past, we used to announce the eight players, who were lucky enough to be chosen by Mark McCormack into the field, and that meant there were eight very happy people and there were hundreds of cross ones.  Now with the qualification system as we have it, it is entirely clear:  All 24 here are thoroughly deserving of their places and I think will make for a fantastic tournament this week.
So again, just very quickly, my thanks to everyone here on the top table.  Thank you to all of you and to all of the other players that are here this week, and we think it will be one of the most exciting match plays we have been lucky enough to have, thank you.
KEITH WATERS:  Thank you, welcome, everybody.  As Guy said, a special thanks to Per and his team at Volvo, not just for this week; they do sponsor three events each season on The European Tour, and I think he mentioned 80 tournaments.  That's over 50 years of support from Volvo.  We are very grateful and we are very lucky to have such an enduring sponsor.
IMG are synonymous with The European Tour and golf, particular in Europe, so we are very grateful to them and their expertise for bringing this tournament to Bulgaria.
We do have a similar vision to Volvo and IMG:  Trying to grow the game in the various countries around the world.  It certainly helps the Tour financially to be spread as far as possible.  It helps with our TV negotiations in each country; that if we do host a tournament in those different countries and it also helps to grow the game and develop players from those different countries.  So we are particularly pleased to be here in Bulgaria for the first time this week.
And thanks to Krassimir for having a vision to design a golf course so close to the sea; in fact, I'm a bit concerned that one or two players may disappear into the sea if they get too close to that cliff.  Certainly a spectacular place and certainly looking forward to the event.
And of course, many thanks to all of their players for their support and to Nicolas for coming here and good luck again this week in defending your title, many thanks.
MICHAEL GIBBONS:  Thank you.  And Krassi, can we have the Bulgarian view, please?
KRASSIMIR GUERGOV:  Thank you everybody for these nice words what you say about all of us and I would like to say a few words.  Ladies and gentlemen, it's a great privilege for us to host the Volvo Match Play in Bulgaria.  I would like to thank Volvo, European Tour and IMG for the support and faith they have put in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria is the new undiscovered golf destination of the world.  Most of our golf courses are signature with wonderful scenery.  Thracian Cliffs is a good example of this.  Bulgaria is proud that over 400 million TV homes will experience our country.  I think this is the biggest sporting event in the history of Bulgaria.
Our aim is that the Volvo World Match Play and the game of golf will help drive tourism and the economy in Bulgaria.  This week the world is watching and we will deliver.  I wish all the players the best of luck for the tournament and hope you will enjoy our Bulgarian hospitality.  Thank you very much.
MICHAEL GIBBONS:  And last by no means least, Nicolas, perhaps you can give some comments about being here to defend the Volvo World Match Play Championship.
NICOLAS COLSAERTS:  Well, anybody is going to be very proud to have the chance to defend a title like this.  This is a tournament I used to watch on TV when I was young and it always had a special effect on me.  Over the years I've grown a special relationship with Volvo, of course, and I cannot thank Volvo enough for everything they have done for me in the last couple of years.
I'm very excited to come to the golf course, too.  I have a few friends that have been here before, and all I heard was fantastic comments.  You can see by yourself when you drive over the cliff and you get to see this sea right in front of you and you can only imagine how these holes form the course by the water, and it looks an unbelievable setting for an unbelievable tournament.
MICHAEL GIBBONS:  Thank you for your opening comments.  Before we move on to the draw, I would like to introduce a couple of special guests to the stage, Mr.Ian Poulter and Henrik Stenson.
José María Zamora, Tournament Director of The European Tour.
JOS√Č MAR√ćA ZAMORA:¬† Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start asking Mr.Per Ericsson to step forward and help me with the procedures, and I will explain the draw today.¬†
Basically we have eight groups and we have got 24 players.¬† The top 16 players in the World Ranking have been already allocated to each of the groups.¬† So we have the best‑ranked players in the world, No. 16, No. 2 with No. 15, and No. 3 with No. 14.
We are going to draw the players ranked between positions 17 and 24 and these names are here in order.  So they are:  Geoff Ogilvy, Stephen Gallacher, Brett Rumford, Shane Lowry, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Scott Jamieson, Thomas Aiken and Felipe Aguilar.
So I will ask Per, please, to put in the pouch the eight names.
The first name, who will go in the Gary Player group, is Brett Rumford.  Next player, we go in the Mark McCormack group, Scott Jamieson.  Next player will go in the Greg Norman group, Felipe Aguilar.  Next player to go in the Ian Woosnam group, Kiradech Aphibarnrat.  Next player to go in the Gustaf Larson group, Geoff Ogilvy.  Next name to go to the Arnold Palmer group, Shane Lowery.  Next name, Mr.Thomas Aiken, and the last name is Stephen Gallacher.
Seve Ballesteros will be Graeme McDowell, Chris Wood, Stephen Gallacher.
Assar Gabrielsson will be Ian Poulter, Thongchai Jaidee and Thomas Aiken.
Arnold Palmer will be Peter Hanson, George Coetzee and Shane Lowery.
Gustaf Larson will be Bo Van Pelt, Richard Sterne and Geoff Ogilvy.
Ian Woosnam will be Branden Grace, Nicolas Colsaerts and Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
Greg Norman:  Henrik Stenson, Francesco Molinari and Felipe Aguilar.
Mark McCormack group:¬† Thorbj√łrn Olesen, Carl Pettersson, Scott Jamieson.
And last group, Gary Player group will be Gonzalo Fernandez‑Casta√Īo, Jamie Donaldson and Brett Rumford.
I would like to announce the matches on Thursday morning, we will be starting at 12.05.¬† It will be Gonzalo Fernandez‑Casta√Īo playing against Jamie Donaldson.
12.20:¬† Thorbj√łrn Olesen playing against Carl Pettersson.
12.35:  Henrik Stenson playing against Francesco Molinari.
12.50:  Branden Grace playing against Nicolas Colsaerts.
13.05:  Bo Van Pelt playing against Richard Sterne.
13.20:  Peter Hanson playing against George Coetzee.
13.35:  Ian Poulter playing against Thongchai Jaidee.
And the last group, 13.50:  Graeme McDowell against Chris Wood.
Thank you very much.
MICHAEL GIBBONS:  Move to the players now.  Get your thoughts on your completed groups.
IAN POULTER:  I've played Thongchai a few times now, also in match play, he's a strong competitor, and obviously looking forward to that match.  Thomas Aiken is someone who has played well last year.  It's going to be a tough group, so I'm obviously going to have to play well.
MICHAEL GIBBONS:  Your passion for match play is known well.
IAN POULTER:¬† I love the match‑play format.¬† That's no secret to anybody, so very much looking forward to getting in that for the.¬† For me it's coming at the right time, get the match‑play adrenaline going and see if I can get out there and push on my season from now.
HENRIK STENSON:  Yeah, I know them pretty well, see if I can beat them as well, Thursday, Friday.  Francesco, I haven't played him before in match play, and it was a pretty tough task for Tiger, so I'm sure it will be the same for me.
Felipe, I've played a bit more with and he's a good laugh, so hopefully I can distract him with a few good jokes out there, try to put him in some false security.  It will be fun.  It will be fun.  A good bunch of guys, so looking forward to that.
And I want to thank Volvo for giving me the opportunity to play here this week, being the selected wild card, so that feels great.  And haven't yet been out to the golf course, but it looks spectacular and seems like we are up for a good week of match play.
NICOLAS COLSAERTS:¬† Well, we spoke last night that the Ian Woosnam group should be recalled the Volvo Group.¬† Branden has been very successful at Volvo events, as well; he played very well last year, too.¬† He's won a couple of times.¬† So pretty good match‑play player I guess.¬† And Kiradech, I played a match in Thailand and I also saw him win his first time in Malaysia.¬† He's one Asia's new rising stars, so it looks like a pretty good group, as well.

Q.  Could you please detail, I know you had a lot of trouble with your luggage, your golf clubs, how much trouble your parents got to and how much support have you got from Volvo in getting your clubs here?
NICOLAS COLSAERTS:  Yeah, it was chaos in Brussels.  There's been a strike with baggage handlers.  I have no suitcase, no golf bag.
And thanks to the power of social media, we put a few comments on some Facebook pages and people started to go crazy about it.  Some of my people were allowed to go into where all the luggage were stuck and find my golf bag.  And we put my dad in a plane just now, he is flying just now to get the bag over.
I have no suitcase; we are delivering emergency luggage.  It was pretty intense yesterday because I didn't know, you know, when I was going to see them and I didn't have another golf bag already.  So it was either this one or I play with a random set, which I really didn't want to do in my defence of the title. 

Q.  Have you managed to play the course yet?
NICOLAS COLSAERTS:  Yeah, I would have liked to play some today and see what the course has to offer.
But you know, we travel enough to know that‑‑ I mean, all of you here travel enough to know that you never get to the places or the places would you like to travel earlier.¬† So you've just got to deal with it, and you know, thank God my father is going to be here tonight with some golf clubs.

Q.  Ian and Henrik, would you share with us your thoughts when you first rode on the helicopter yesterday and you saw this amazing course?
IAN POULTER:  Yeah, I think everybody has seen for the last few months until the media how the golf course has seen visually on paper.
I watched it on the iPad and I watched the discussion from Gary Player, how he talked us through the golf course, which is very impressive.  Yesterday we got to actually see for our own guy eyes coming across the hilltop and down through the whole cliffs and it was amazing.  Henrik was telling us last nightthat he was flying the helicopter but he told me, no, it was for real, so I'm glad I was in helicopter No. 1, not helicopter No.2, I would I not want this man.
HENRIK STENSON:  I was just very glad that it was yesterday and not today because in those winds, I don't think anybody would like to be in a helicopter.  But it was looking magnificent, and you know, I think we just can't wait to get out there and see what it plays like.  I don't know, I mean it looked like the Cliffs of Dover I guess when you're over the golf course on the side of it, so it looks very cool.

Q.  You touched upon that when you said this event has come at a good time for you to get a bit of form; can you expand on that, and your form, are you disappointed the last couple of weeks?
IAN POULTER:¬† I'm not overly happy with my performance the last couple of weeks‑‑ but you know what, these weeks come every now and then and I guess match play for me is always good timing.¬† I wish we played 27 match‑play events a year.¬† But you know, it's just match play; it's a format, I love it.¬† So whenever I get to play, it's good timing.
I think it's good timing. I have had two poor weeks but I actually played quite nicely, so have to put it down sometimes golf brings you down‑to‑earth sometimes and makes you reevaluate quickly and back onto move forward.¬† 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 coming at the right time of year for me to play.  It would be six out of seven weeks, and I don't have two weeks off now until after September.  So I'm coming into a long run of tournaments which I'm looking forward to obviously playing my best golf.

Q.  Defending champion, it has privileges and it has pressures; can you tell us a little bit about both, please?
NICOLAS COLSAERTS:¬† Well, I am the same as Ian; I have always loved to play match play, so in that regard, I don't really see a lot of pressure.¬† I have not played my best golf since early in the year.¬† So match‑play tournaments have sometimes this little kick that you look for that allows you to express yourself the best way you can.¬† I'm looking forward to playing some match play, because I've always enjoyed it, simple.

Q.  Do you know how many stations will broadcast the event live throughout the world?
GUY KINNINGS:  The platform that the tournament goes out on is The European Tour platform, which has host broadcasters and pan regional broadcasters.  All we know is the reach is roughly 400 million households around the world.  I think the number of different broadcasters is going to be 50 or 60 around the world.
That's the power of being able to take the pictures from here and show them around the world, particularly the pick‑up that you now have across Asia‑Pacific, which is astonishing the interest we are seeing in golf coverage, and particularly European Tour coverage and PGA TOUR coverage has grown year on year.

Q.  Just wondering if you would talk us through, obviously you were right in contention at THE PLAYERS at the weekend, just give us your thoughts on that and also perhaps your thoughts on the Tiger and Sergio round of handbags, whatever you want to call it; is it possibly good for golf to have a rivalry?
HENRIK STENSON:  I don't see any handbags but maybe there were a few.
Well, obviously I'm pleased with my performance last week.  I've had some good weeks this spring and seems like I'm heading in the right direction for sure.  Yeah, it was another good result on that.  I've always liked to play at Sawgrass and done well in the past, and yeah, got the adrenaline going and I was in there with an outside chance on Sunday, so it was good.
Between Sergio and Tiger, I guess I'll leave the comments to them rather than making any on their behalf.  Yeah, sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad.  I don't know if there's been much going on in the past or not, but doesn't seem to be such a big deal.

Q.  I was going to ask you, the uniqueness of this golf course, is there a difference of challenges if you were playing this course in stroke play as compared to playing a person in match play?
IAN POULTER:  I think that's a difficult question to answer without playing 18 holes.  I think in match play, generally certainly in Ryder Cups, some of the courses we have played in practice rounds we have been surprised how difficult they are.
But as we know in match play, we have certainly in Ryder Cup, we have seen some of the best golf that we have ever seen in a two‑year period, we make more birdies and it's the format that it is, you have to be aggressive, whether it's a difficult pin on a difficult hole, that's irrelevant and you're going to see good golf shots.¬† If you're not prepared to take any risks in match play, you're going to be packing your bags and going home.
That's why you see a lot of good golf and that's why many so players love to play match play.  This golf course just on paper, I looked through the yardage book yesterday, obviously it's fraught with danger.  I mean, there's a lot of cliffs in the sea that you're going to have to stay away from.
I think talking with my caddie this morning, again, there's going to be a number of holes where it's unusual that sometimes your playing partner might be teeing off first and he might very well hit it in the water or in a position which obviously he's going to be having to reload off the tee.  You still have to step up and hit a great shot.  There's no way of playing that hole and back off and think, oh, I'm just going to plod it down the fairway.  You have to stand up and hit a shot.
I think it's going to be a very interesting match‑play golf course, and I can't wait to play tomorrow just to really have a look and see how it's going to pan out for everybody.
MICHAEL GIBBONS:  That concludes our press conference, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much for your attendance and hope you all have a great week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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