STEPHEN Gallacher has joined Scott Jamieson in the field for next month’s Volvo Match Play Championship, with the possibility of a third Scot – Paul Lawrie – also being in the line-up for the first staging of the £2.5 million event in Bulgaria.
While the full field is still being finalised, The Scotsman has learned that Gallacher’s win in the Dubai Desert Classic earlier in the year has helped him secure a spot in the event, which is being played at the Gary Player-designed Thracian Cliffs Golf & Beach Resort from 16-19 May.
“We have received an email from the European Tour offering Stephen a place in the Volvo Match Play Championship,” confirmed the player’s manager, Iain Stoddart. “To be honest, we weren’t sure if he’d get into the event, which only has 24 spots up for grabs, so Stephen is obviously delighted to get the chance to add this to his schedule.”
Jamieson also confirmed he’ll be making his debut in the event – held for so long at Wentworth at the end of the season before it moved to Finca Cortesin in Spain four years ago.
“Yes I am playing,” said the Glaswegian, who won the Nelson Mandela Championship at the start of the 2013 season. “I qualified in January at the Volvo Champions [where he finished runner-up to Louis Oosthuizen in Durban].”
Lawrie, who lost to eventual winner Nicolas Colsaerts in the semi-finals last year, is still waiting to hear if he’ll get the opportunity to improve on that effort. The Aberdonian said on Sunday that he feared he might miss out after finishing joint 38th in the Masters but it seems he’s still in with a chance of joining his two compatriots in Kavarna, a Black Sea coastal town.
One event Lawrie will definitely be taking part in is the launch of a new game that is being marketed as golf’s version of Twenty20 cricket.
Called “Zone Golf”, it is being launched on 27 May – the day after the end of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. It’s a nine-hole game with greens divided into three coloured zones with different scoring values.
Joining Lawrie will be two of his team-mates from last year’s Ryder Cup, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose, as well as the 2014 European captain, Paul McGinley. The quartet will compete for £250,000, with £100,000 going to the winner’s nominated charity, which in Lawrie’s case would be his Foundation in the north-east. The other three each get £50,000 for their charities.
“I’m excited to be invited to play in the launch of Zone Golf,” said Lawrie. “Playing against some of the best in the golfing world in a do-or-die game will hopefully provide the audience with some top entertainment and a fun day out for all the family. Raising money for my Foundation is even better.”
Meanwhile, Stirling’s Craig Lee maintained his recent good form with a three-under-par 69 to be among the leaders after the opening round of the Spanish Open at El Saler in Valencia.
Joint-ninth in his last outing – the Hassan Trophy in Morocco – the Stirling man bagged five birdies on a course regarded as one of the best in Europe, to sit joint-fourth – one behind joint- leaders Felipe Aguilar from Chile, Frenchman Gary Stal and Dane Morten Orum Madsen.
Gonzalo Fernandez Castano, fresh from finishing 20th in the Masters – his best-ever major performance – leads the home challenge after Sergio Garcia had to settle for a 72 and Miguel Angel Jimenez struggled to a 76 on his return from a broken leg.
Business as usual in Korea
THE European Tour is keeping a close eye on developments on the Korean peninsula ahead of the Ballantine’s Championship in Seoul next week, but organisers say it will be business as usual.
“We are closely monitoring the political situation in Korea but, at the moment, we do not perceive any problems in terms of the Ballantine’s Championship taking place as scheduled,” the European Tour’s director of international policy, Keith Waters, said in a statement.
Six-times tour winner Alvaro Quiros said earlier
this month that he would
not compete in the South Korean tournament.
“I don’t think it’s a good moment to go there,” said the Spaniard. “It would be a stupid idea with the way things are.”