Some of the European Tour's biggest names are in England this week for the Volvo World Match Play Championship at the London Club in Kent, while others will return to the Hong Kong Golf Club for the Hong Kong Open.
Defending champion Graeme McDowell -- who took the title at the inimitable Thracian Cliffs in Bulgaria last May -- will be joined by the likes of Henrik Stenson, Victor Dubuisson, Francesco Molinari and Portugal Masters winner Alexander Levy at the Match Play.
Nicolas Colsaerts, Gregory Bourdy, Ernie Els and Y.E. Yang will join defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez in Hong Kong. The gregarious Spaniard has won the Hong Kong Open four times since the tournament joined the European Tour schedule in 2002.
Here are a few things to watch for at each event, starting with the Match Play:
1. Six Ryder Cup players will be in action at the Volvo World Match Play: McDowell, Stenson, Dubuisson, Patrick Reed, Jamie Donaldson and Stephen Gallacher. GMac is a proficient matchplay exponent and Donaldson impressed en debut at Gleneagles, while Dubuisson excelled in the Ryder Cup and reached the final of the WGC-Accenture Matchplay in his first appearance earlier this year. There’s also potential for Stenson and Reed to meet in the latter stages. Should that scenario materialize, the Swede will be desperate to exact revenge after losing to the impassioned American at Gleneagles.
2. Paul Casey received the one sponsor’s invite to the Match Play and he’ll enter the tournament full of confidence after his impressive victory in the KLM Open last month. The Englishman defeated Shaun Micheel 10&8 in the final of the 2006 World Matchplay at Wentworth’s West Course and lost out in the final of the 2008 and 2009 WGC-Accenture Matchplay, so he clearly feels comfortable in the head-to-head format.
3. It will be intriguing to see how the English crowd takes to Patrick Reed after his fiery performance at Gleneagles. The American is clearly a fervently patriotic individual who relishes the test of matchplay golf, and while some feel he went a touch too far during his singles match with Stenson in the Ryder Cup, he’s undoubtedly a passionate player who reserves his best golf for the big occasion.
And now for the Hong Kong Open:
1. Miguel Angel Jimenez will be going in search of a fifth Hong Kong Open title and a 22nd European Tour win when he tees it up on Thursday. The veteran Spaniard – arguably the most popular golfer on tour – became the European Tour’s oldest winner when he triumphed here in 2012 and broke his own record last year, aged 49 years and 337 days. This April, he won the European Tour’s Open de Espana to extend his incredible record even further.
2. Nicolas Colsaerts -- who finished second in last week’s Portugal Masters -- will be seeking his first European Tour victory for more than two years at the Hong Kong Open. The Belgian has been in good form of late, finishing 13th at the Omega European Masters before a 4th-place finish at the Wales Open and another strong showing on the Algarve.
3. This week is hugely significant in the context of the Race to Dubai. It’s the penultimate event on the European Tour’s regular season and do-or-die time for those outside the top 110 in the standings. A number of players in the field will also be aiming to break into the top 60 on the Race to Dubai to secure their place at the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai. As it stands, the likes of Ian Poulter, Thorbjorn Olesen, Peter Uihlein, Alvaro Quiros and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano won’t be featuring in the European Tour’s 2014 finale.