The World Matchplay Championship, once a staple of the autumn schedule, has, in recent years, lost much of what made it great.

A rejigging of the format, a move away from its Wentworth home, a change in date, the introduction of the WGC Accenture Matchplay Championship and a couple of years when it wasn't played have all contributed to a slow erosion of its stature.

Like a matchplay tie itself, the future of this proud event remained unpredictable but, last night, it was announced that the championship will break new ground in 2013 when it takes place at the Gary Player-designed Thracian Cliffs course in Bulgaria before rotating around a number of host venues in future years. An eventual return to the UK is even a possibility.

Loading article content

Next season's tournament will be the first time a European Tour event has been staged in Bulgaria, and officials of Volvo, the title sponsors, said that this new "golf strategy" will bring the championship "to geographical areas of interest for Volvo's business" after three years at Finca Cortesin in Spain.

Whether it gets the event really motoring again remains to be seen. The event, with a celebrated history that dates back to 1964, still has plenty to offer. Last year, the first prize was £700,000 with £60,000 going to those eliminated in the group stages.

Yet the absence of the main players was a damaging blow. The likes of Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and former winner Lee Westwood all scrubbed it from their schedules, the line-up did not feature any player from the top eight of the world rankings and there was only token representation from the United States.

The timing of the event in mid-May was, and no doubt will remain, a problem, too. Moved away from its traditional autumn slot, it is now squeezed in between two marquee events on either side of the Atlantic – the Players Championship and the BMW PGA Championship – and, at that stage, the minds of the leading players are becoming focused primarily on the majors as the schedule moves towards the peak season.