LONDON (Reuters) - Graeme McDowell will have to overcome European opposition as he seeks to retain his title in the Volvo World Match Play Championship, which begins at the London Golf Club on Wednesday.
Northern Ireland’s McDowell, seeded to play the tournament’s top-ranked player Henrik Stenson in the final on Sunday, has been drawn with Dutchman Joost Luiten, Finland’s Mikko Illonen and France’s Alexander Levy in the group stage of the prestigious event, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
The field features five of Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup team as well as Patrick Reed, who made such a striking debut for the American team at Gleneagles.
Reed will play one of Europe’s Gleneagles heroes, Welshman Jamie Donaldson, as well as Sweden’s Jonas Blixt and England’s Paul Casey in his group.
Ryder Cup team mates Victor Dubuisson and Stephen Gallacher feature in an all-European group with Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal and Irishman Shane Lowry.
Swede Stenson, the world number five, is grouped with Thongchai Jaidee, the Thai who was beaten by McDowell in last year’s final, Italy’s Francesco Molinari and South African George Coetzee, a late replacement for the injured Thomas Bjorn.
After the group matches featuring nine of the world’s top 50 players, played between Wednesday and Friday, the top two in each section will qualify for Saturday’s quarter-finals, with the semis and final to be played on Sunday.
Arnold Palmer Group
Henrik Stenson (Sweden) World number five, seeded one
Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand) No 41, seeded eight
Francesco Molinari (Italy) No 48, seeded nine
George Coetzee (South Africa) world number 89, seeded 16
Mark McCormack Group
Jamie Donaldson (Wales) No 25, seeded four
Patrick Reed (USA) No 26, seeded five
Jonas Blixt (Sweden) No 58, seeded 12
Paul Casey (England) No 66, seeded 13
Assar Gabrielsson Group
Victor Dubuisson (France) No 23, seeded three
Stephen Gallacher (Scotland) No 35, seeded six
Shane Lowry (Ireland) No 53, seeded 11
Pablo Larrazabal (Spain) No 70, seeded 14
Gustaf Larson Group
Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland) No 18, seeded two
Joost Luiten (Netherlands) No 37, seeded seven
Mikko Ilonen (Finland) No 52, seeded 10
Alexander Levy (France) No 74, seeded 15
Writing by Ian Chadband; Editing by Ken Ferris