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Defending champion Nicolas Colsaerts off to slow start


Nicolas Colsaerts of Belguim

Nicolas Colsaerts of Belguim

Getty Images

Nicolas Colsaerts of Belguim

Nicolas Colsaerts, who had enormous difficulty getting his clubs to Bulgaria for the defence of his Volvo World Match Play title, soon found opening opponent Branden Grace could prove equally troublesome today.

Colsaerts' first attempt to get his clubs and luggage to the spectacular Thracian Cliffs resort was thwarted by a strike at Brussels Airport.

Plan B saw his mother take his reserve set on a flight from Paris to Sofia, but that flight was cancelled and when his mother eventually arrived at midnight, the luggage had not made the journey.

It was only when he appealed on social media for help that staff at Brussels airport searched for and found the original missing clubs, allowing his father Patrick to bring them on a private plane arriving late on Tuesday night.

However, Grace was not about to take things easy on the Ryder Cup star and won the second hole with a birdie from 10 feet with Colsaerts struggling to make par after missing the green by some 15 yards on the par three.

Colsaerts looked like getting back on level terms at the next after an excellent approach, but then saw Grace hole from 35ft for birdie and had to follow him in from seven feet just to remain one down.

Spain's Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano had made the best start in the eight group matches being played today, three birdies in a row from the third and a par on the sixth enough to go three up on Welshman Jamie Donaldson.

Italy's Francesco Molinari was two up on Henrik Stenson after five holes, despite conceding the first after his second attempt to get out of a fairway bunker found the water, while American Bo van Pelt was two ahead of Richard Sterne after two.

Sweden's Carl Pettersson, who has rejoined the European Tour and hopes to qualify for next year's Ryder Cup, was also two up on Norway's Thorbjorn Olesen after six.

Colsaerts did not actually win any of his group games last year, halving with Charl Schwartzel and losing to Retief Goosen, but went through after a play-off with Schwartzel after the former Masters champion also lost to Goosen.

And he was in danger of getting off to a losing start again when he lost the fifth, seventh and eighth to fall four down with 10 holes to play.

Fernandez-Castano was also four up on Donaldson with just seven holes to play, while Pettersson had moved three up on Olesen thanks to a birdie on the 10th.

The remaining matches were all much closer, with 2011 champion Ian Poulter only one up on Thongchai Jaidee after starting with three birdies in succession - the first of which was matched by Jaidee - before hitting his second shot on the fourth over the edge of the cliff to the Black Sea below.

PA Media