volvo golf champions preview

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The ability to merge prestigious and established sponsors with new and exciting venues is perfectly illustrated this week with the inaugural Volvo Golf Champions at the Royal Golf Club in Bahrain, the second of the thrilling month-long Desert Swing on The 2011 European Tour International Schedule.

Volvo are the most prolific sponsor in the Tour’s history – the tournament being the ninth different Volvo sponsored event since 1972 – and the first visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain marks the 71st staging of a Volvo event in those 39 years.

A glittering array of golfing talent has assembled to vie for the lion’s share of the €1.7 million prize fund including players who have, between them, a combined haul of eight Major Championship titles, 329 European Tour wins and 27 US PGA Tour triumphs.

Leading the way are seven men from the top 30 of the Official World Golf Ranking – Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Francesco Molinari, Robert Karlsson, Edoardo Molinari, Miguel Angel Jiménez and Padraig Harrington – three of whom; Casey, Harrington and Jiménez, have all tasted success in Volvo-sponsored tournaments in the past.

Moreover Karlsson is particularly relishing teeing up again in a region of the world where he has enjoyed great success, having won both the Commercialbank Qatar Masters and the Dubai World Championship last season.

“This will be my first event on The 2011 European Tour International Schedule and I would be very happy if I could carry on from where I left off in the Gulf last year,” he said. “I’ve played many Volvo events over the years and they are always fantastic with really strong fields so I have no doubt this first Volvo Golf Champions will be a great success.”

Additionally, the field is strengthened by the appearance of the exciting Italian teenager Matteo Manassero, the 2010 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year winner, and the 20 time worldwide winner Sergio Garcia.

Garcia said: “The extended break I have taken over the winter has refreshed both me and my enthusiasm for the game all over again. I've come close in the Volvo Masters, runner-up three times in a row, and I'm looking forward to testing my game in another Volvo-sponsored event against many of the best players on The European Tour.”

Also in action will be Garcia’s fellow Spaniard José Maria Olazábal, who last week was named as the successor to Colin Montgomerie as captain of the European Ryder Cup Team which will tackle the United States at Medinah Country Club in September 2012.

Olazábal said: “These are incredibly exciting times for European golf and for The European Tour and to have a brand new event in the Middle East at a time when the sponsorship market is very tough indeed is clear evidence that our golf circuit is in great shape, on and off the golf course.”

Mention of Montgomerie is appropriate for the successful 2010 European Ryder Cup Captain will have a major influence on the outcome of the event for the play will unfold on the course he designed – The Montgomerie Course – in conjunction with Robin Hiseman at European Golf Design.

Built around the footprint of the old Riffa Golf Club, the Montgomerie Course embraces the desert environment as the dramatic wadi landforms entwine with and surround the pristine, paspalum fairways, giving the course a rugged, windswept dunescape.

“If something is carrying your name, you personally ensure that you give it your full attention,” he said.  “You want it to be something special, not just for yourself but for all golfers who give up their time to play your creation - and, hopefully it leaves them with a long lasting impression.”