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Volvo, IMG and The European Tour were today hosted by Bulgaria's Minister of Physical Education and Sport, Mr Svilen Neykov, and the Bulgarian Golf Association at a special press conference for the Volvo World Match Play Championship in the nation's capital, Sofia. The press conference marked the beginning of the countdown to Bulgaria's first full European Tour event, the 2013 Volvo World Match Play Championship, which will be played at the breathtaking Thracian Cliffs Course in Bulgaria from the 16th to the 19th May.
The elite Volvo World Match Play Championship, celebrating its 50th year in 2013, will gather 24 of the world's best players to compete for this prestigious title via a qualification process designed to gather the highest quality international field. So far, Nicolas Colsaerts has qualified as the Defending Champion, Shane Lowry by winning the 2012 Portugal Masters and last weekend, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Louis Oosthuizen and Peter Hanson qualified as the leading four players on the final 2012 Race to Dubai Rankings. It was also announced today that the prize fund for the 2013 Championship increases to â‚¬3,000,000 (â‚¬250,000 more than 2012) with the eventual winner taking home a â‚¬800,000 first prize.
Defending Champion Nicolas Colsaerts commented, "Winning the Volvo World Match Play Championship last year was my biggest individual achievement to date and I have no doubt that my success in such a prestigious match play tournament gave Captain OlazÃ¡bal added confidence in me when he came to choose me as one of his Captain's Picks for the 2012 Ryder Cup. The list of past champions of the Volvo World Match Play Championship reads like a who's who of golf and I am very proud to see my name added to such an illustrious list which includes so many golfing greats including, Gary Player, Greg Norman, Sir Nick Faldo and the greatest match player of all-time, the late Seve Ballesteros."
Colsaerts continued, "I am very excited to be defending my title at this new venue. As historic as the Match Play Championship is, I think it is pretty neat that it is still making history as the first full European tournament to be held in Bulgaria and I look forward to experiencing all Bulgaria has to offer in May."
Bulgaria's Minister of Physical Education and Sport, Mr Svilen Neykov, expressed his support for the Volvo World Match Play Championship, "I am delighted to welcome our partners, Volvo, IMG and the European Tour here today. There are many wonderful courses and destinations around the world that would wish to have been selected and I take enormous pride that Bulgaria was chosen to host this prestigious international tournament. For a Championship with such a rich heritage to choose our country to host the 48th edition is very flattering and we are looking forward to welcoming many of the world's best golfers to Bulgaria in May."
Mr Svilen Neykov continued, "We have worked hard to grow golf in our country and the extensive media coverage this Championship will deliver will give us a wonderful opportunity to showcase our credentials as a golfing destination all around the world."
Per Ericsson, President of Volvo Event Management commented, "At Volvo, we take great pride in being innovative, original and forward thinking. This goes for all areas, from inventing the safety belt to being the first western brand to engage with golf in China. Now, we are the first to bring a full European Tour event to Bulgaria. Not only does Thracian Cliffs provide us with a wonderful stage for this great tournament but, vitally, it works for us on a business level as Eastern Europe is a very important business area for us. We are delighted to be working with the Bulgarian Government and the Bulgarian Golf Association and we are very proud to still be delivering ground-breaking innovations as we look forward to marking our 130th professional golf tournament in Bulgaria next May."
Guy Kinnings, Global Co-Managing Director IMG added, "The Volvo World Match Play Championship is very special to everyone at IMG as it was founded in the same year as our company. Now, more than 50 years on, we are delighted that, with the help of our partners, Volvo and the European Tour, this historic Championship continues to go from strength to strength and remains such an important fixture on the global schedule. We are very grateful to the Bulgarian Government and Bulgarian Golf Association for their support in welcoming us and delighted that our aspiration of bringing such a globally significant tournament to Bulgaria has been realized. The â‚¬3,000,000 prize fund adds to the millions Volvo has invested into golf over the last 25 years and reflects the status of this Championship"
Keith Waters, Chief Operating Officer of The European Tour, said: "The European Tour is very grateful to the Bulgarian Government, the Bulgarian Golf Association and Thracian Cliffs for their vision and commitment to this prestigious Championship and to The European Tour. This new venue and country is one of 28 different destinations on The European Tour's 2013 International Schedule and further advances our aim of growing the game of golf and developing new golf destinations."
Krassimir Guergov, Chairman of the Bulgarian Golf Association, commented, "We were delighted when Volvo, IMG and the European Tour recognized our golfing credentials and confirmed that the Volvo World Match Play Championship would be coming to Thracian Cliffs. Now we are concentrating on helping IMG and Volvo to deliver a world class Championship that will showcase Bulgaria's wonderful golfing assets."
The Championship, which will generate worldwide media coverage, with approximately 1,600 hours of golf broadcast to half a billion households, has evolved considerably since moving from Wentworth in 2009, successfully securing a world-class field by qualification on merit, increasing the field to 24 players and revising the format. The qualified players are divided into eight groups of three players to be played out on Thursday and Friday with 16 players progressing to Saturday's knock-out stage with the semi-finals and final played on Sunday.
The last three editions of the Volvo World Match Play Championships were held at Finca CortesÃn in Spain and this move to the much-lauded Gary Player designed signature course marks the first time a full European Tour event will be played in Bulgaria. Framed by rugged coastal cliffs and the vast blue of the Black Sea, which can be viewed from each and every hole, Thracian Cliffs is arguably one of the most dramatic golf courses on earth. Gary Player once commented, "You will not find a golf course like this anywhere else on the planet." Underlining the unique features of this new venue, the Thracian Cliffs has also been called the 'Pebble Beach of Europe'.
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