In three years’ time, Le Golf National will take centre stage as the venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup.
For now, it continues its position as the host course for the annual Alstom Open de France.
This is the 99th edition of the tournament and, as usual, it’s attracted one of the better fields on the European Tour calendar.
Graeme McDowell arrives in Paris seeking a third straight win in the tournament while 2009 champ Martin Kaymer also lines up again. Sunday’s BMW International Open Pablo Larrazabal is another former winner (2008).
Lee Westwood, Jamie Donaldson, Francesco Molinari and Victor Dubuisson also head to the French capital and, like many others, will no doubt let their minds wander forward to the 2018 Ryder Cup and hope that they’ll be part of the European team.
Le Golf National has hosted this tournament every year since 2002 so gamers have plenty of solid course form to analyse.
Winners at Le Golf National and their stats for the week
2014 Graeme McDowell (-5; DD 59, DA 17, GIR 22, Scr 15; PPGIR 3)
2013 Graeme McDowell (-9; DD 41, DA 15, GIR 1, Scr 2; PPGIR 31)
2012 Marcel Siem (-8; DD 5, DA 2, GIR 3, Scr 4; PPGIR 31)
2011 Thomas Levet (-7; DD 29, DA 35, GIR 3, Scr 8; PPGIR 20)
2010 Miguel Angel Jimenez (-11; DD 48, DA 16, GIR 12, Scr 38; PPGIR 4)
2009 Martin Kaymer (-13; DD 21, DA 43, GIR 9, Scr 23; PPGIR 3)
2008 Pablo Larrazabal (-15; DD 46, DA 41, GIR 39, Scr 4; PPGIR 1)
2007 Graeme Storm (-7; DD 19, DA 9, GIR 2, Scr 34; PPGIR 4)
2006 John Bickerton (-11; DD 64, DA 4, GIR 1, Scr 1; PPGIR 38)
2005 Jean-Francois Remesy (-11; DD 49, DA 16, GIR 1, Scr 1; PPGIR 48)
6 winners were ranked in the top 3 for GIR
5 winners were ranked in the top 4 for PPGIR
5 winners were ranked in the top 4 for Scrambling
Only 1 winner was in the top 15 for Driving Distance
Key to victory
The tournament has been won with single digits under par for the last four years and, in three of those, the winner was in the top 3 for GIR. Hitting greens seems the key skill at Le Golf National.
The course – Le Golf National
Designed by Hubert Chesneau and Robert Von Hagge, Le Golf National has fast greens, undulating fairways and many links-style bunkers. Situated 20 miles south-west of Paris, the stadium-style course is a 7,331-yard par 71 and will make an ideal Ryder Cup venue with its challenging finish where water lurks on 15, 16 and 18. The wet stuff is also in play at 1, 2 and 13. The rough can be challenging although Driving Accuracy hasn’t been a vital element in the recipe for success over the last 10 years.
A heatwave is expected over Europe this week so temperatures will rocket. If the forecast is right, it could break through the 100 degrees barrier on Friday and Saturday which is extremely unusual for this part of the world. It could get a little gusty too although the winds are set to die down on Sunday.
The Leading Contenders
Le Golf National is a great fit for the Italian and it’s no surprise that he’s a two-time runner-up in this event (2010 and 2012). Overall he’s finished T26 or better in eight of his 10 visits to the French track so he’s a must for any fantasy manager. Recent form only enhances his credentials. His last three starts in Europe show two top fives while, in America, he was third at Memorial, T27 at Chambers Bay and T25 in last week’s Travelers Championship. Molinari is 14th for greens in regulation this year.
G-Mac is seeking a three-peat this week after superb wins in 2013 and 2014. “Always been a golf course which I've enjoyed playing, and I always felt it was a golf course where I could perhaps have a chance to win,” he said ahead of last year’s win. He won 12 months ago coming in off a top six in the Irish Open but in 2013 he headed to Paris after missed cuts at Wentworth, the U.S. Open and the Irish Open although, in a strange feast or famine period, he’d also won the Heritage and Volvo World Match Play in the previous couple of months. Course form will really have to kick in this time as McDowell has missed his last two cuts and hasn’t had a top 10 since a season-opening T9 in the Dubai Desert Classic. Despite all that he’s still hitting over 70% of greens in regulation and is in the top 50 on the season-long GIR stats.
Westwood has a strong record at this venue, finishing runner-up in 2009 and fifth in 2008 and there are other top 20s in there too. This is his first appearance since a T40 in 2012 so he’ll no doubt be keen to reacquaint himself with the course with the 2018 Ryder Cup in mind. His current form is a concern. Normally, you’d expect the Englishman to thrive during a stretch which takes in Sawgrass, Wentworth, an Irish Open and a U.S. Open. His results? MC-T38-T53-T50. His position of 79th on the greens in regulation stats is lower than usual and offers some explanation to his lacklustre displays.
The German loves this venue and shot an opening course-record 62 on the way to victory in 2009. He’s had three other top 10s and also made the top 15 in both 2013 and 2014. That’s the good news. The bad is a worrying run of form which has resulted in missed cuts in his last three starts. Perhaps the tough conditions at the Irish and U.S. Opens are legitimate reasons for failure but there was no real excuse for his halfway exit on home soil at last week’s BMW International Open.
The Welshman remains inconsistent Stateside (latest form: missed cuts at St Jude and U.S. Open) but he did finish T18 at Wentworth when jetting back for the BMW PGA Championship. He’ll hope a return to Europe does the trick again and there’s good reason to think it might as Donaldson has finished T5 and T6 at Le Golf National in the last two seasons. All the Ryder Cup chat this week is also likely to spark reminders of his winning shot at Gleneagles last year.
Steele and Le Golf National have some fond history and, although it might not quite be described as a love affair, a pair of T7s on his previous visits in 2011 and 2012 suggest there was at least plenty of flirting going on. Steele returns to Paris on the back of a top 25 in the Travelers Championship (67-71-68-67) so could be set for another profitable week. Would a win here make him a possible wildcard pick for 2018 if he was in decent form at the time?
Wiesberger is 4-for-4 in this event and cracked the top 20 in 2013 and 2014. In fact, he could have finished much higher but shot a final-round 77 to slip from 5th to 18th last year and fell from 3rd to 13th after a closing 75 in 2013. His other Sunday scores here were 76 and 75 so if the Austrian can sort out his final day problems he could have a big week. Currently 35th in greens in regulation.
The Scot has a scrappy record at Le Golf National with two missed cuts and a WD but in 2011 he opened with 69-68-68 to lie third with 18 to play before dropping to fifth. He was also in the top 20 after three rounds in 2013 before closing with an 82 so there are signs of promise. By contrast, his current form is a model of consistency with a win and five other top 15s in his last seven starts on the European Tour.
This will be a tournament debut for the brilliant six-shot winner of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. He has, though, paid plenty of visits to France in Challenge Tour events and last year finished runner-up in Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge. Since his breakthrough win at Wentworth, An has posted T21 at the Irish Open and missed the cut at the U.S. Open. It seems a matter of time before we see him challenging again and, at 15th in the greens in regulation stats, it could be here.
Not converting from promising positions is become a rather unwelcome habit for RCB, who made a mess of his final 36 holes in last week’s BMW International Open after zooming into the halfway lead. That said, his eventual T11 added to form of 2-13-4 so he’s definitely one of the form players on the European Tour. At Le Golf National, he’s made his last three cuts but hasn’t cracked the top 25 in seven attempts. High temperatures (he performs well with the sun on his back) and seventh place in greens in regulation this year could be a good recipe to change that this week.
The Next Rung
Noren’s record at Le Golf National is patchy to say the least. He’s cashed just three times in seven visits and a T15 in 2012 is his only finish better than T37. However, he remains a realistic contender for a spot on the 2018 Ryder Cup team so will want to improve that record before then. The Swede missed the cut at Chambers Bay but his three previous starts on European soil show a win in his home Nordea Masters, a top 10 at Wentworth and a T21 in the Irish Open. Sits 39th for greens in regulation.
The Englishman has never really got to grips with this course. In four visits he’s never broken 70 and his last two starts at Le Golf National resulted in missed cuts in 2012 and 2013. Despite a surprising halfway exit in Germany last week, Wood has been in fine form on the European Tour with a win at the Lyoness Open earlier this month and a top four in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
The Englishman, who sits second in the Race To Dubai, has missed the last two editions but he did have some early success at this course (13-10-5) on first three visits. He’s been a bit hit and miss of late and only managed two rounds at the U.S. Open but before that he was T6 in the Irish Open. Willett sits 28th in greens in regulation which is likely to trigger a green light for many gamers this week.
Larrazabal won last week's BMW International Open at Golfclub München Eichenried for a second time so can he become a dual winner at Le Golf National having won this event in 2008? It's a big ask and, curiously, his course form at the Paris venue since that triumph is poor with three missed cuts out of five and two other average finishes. It's perhaps best to leave him and allow the Spaniard so soak up last week's win.
Warren missed four of his first five cuts in this event but has improved (as he has everywhere) in the last three years with top 20s in 2012 and 2013 and a T26 last year. His reputation for doing well in quality fields is growing and he enhanced that with a T27 in the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay a fortnight ago and a decent T18 at Wentworth. One concern for gamers is his 160th place in the greens in regulation stats.
Frenchmen have done well in their home event with Thomas Levet (2011) and Jean-Francois Remesy (2004 and 2005) giving the French three wins in the last 11 editions. Levy could be the next in line and he’ll be full of confidence after a third place in the Nordea Masters and a T27 on his U.S. Open debut. He’s had four goes at his home event and improved his position each time although the current peak of T35 in 2014 suggests it’s not the perfect fit for him.
After missed cuts at the Nordea and the U.S. Open, Jaidee got back on track with a good display in last week’s BMW International Open but went flat on Sunday and slipped to T11. Nevertheless it looks a good foundation from which to launch another title bid as he was runner-up in this event 12 months ago. Jaidee was also T15 in 2012 and T26 in 2011 so has plenty going for him on this, his 10th start at Le Golf National.
For a player who hits a lot of greens, Grillo might be expected to have a strong record at Le Golf National. Missed cuts in 2014 and 2013 reject that idea although a T23 on debut in 2012 is worth noting and could be a sign of what’s to come. He’s a cut-making machine in Europe and has plenty of high finishes too and although his failure to get over the line and grab a first win is frustrating it really does seem a matter of when, not if.
The introverted Frenchman had a wonderful time with Team Europe at Gleneagles and would love to contest a Ryder Cup on home soil. On this season’s form that looks extremely doubtful although, at last, there were some signs of encouragement in Germany last week when he finished T20 at the BMW International Open. He’s made four of his last five cuts at Le Golf National and shot plenty of good rounds but a T18 in 2013 is Dubuisson’s only top 40 finish.
Gallacher had one of ‘those’ weeks at Chambers Bay. His caddie didn’t even make it to the start line after falling and spraining his ankle in practice and the new bagman couldn’t coax the Scot beyond the halfway mark. Before that, Gallacher was T24 at the Nordea Masters and he’s done well before at Le Golf National with top 10s in 2003 and 2013 along with a T18 last year.
Like a middle-ranking ‘British Invasion’ 60s band, Sullivan scored a surprise top 20 hit (T13) at Memorial recently when few thought he could break America at this stage in his career. For now he remains more Dave Clark Five than The Beatles (is Ed Sullivan a long lost cousin?) but the Englishman could have another hit in France this week. Sullivan was T26 last year and a top 40 position for greens in regulation in 2015 and good showings at the Irish Open (T6) and Wentworth (T17) also bode well.
Top 10 for greens in regulation. Playing on home soil. The 54-hole leader at the Lyoness Open two starts ago. Bourdy appears to have all the ingredients for a big run at this title although his record at Le Golf National is inconsistent. He’s only managed a single top 10 in 11 attempts (6th in 2010) while a T12 last year and a T19 in 2007 are his only other top 30s.
Howell was runner-up at Le Golf National in 2003 while two of his other three top 10s came in 2012 (T4) and 2013 (T8) so he’s done well in the tougher scoring conditions of the last few years. The tournament may just have come at the perfect time for him as he shook off a run of three missed cuts with a T9 in Germany last week. That suggests he could be back to the form of a couple of months ago when the Englishman went 4-2-2.
The little Dane has been one of the stars of the show on the European Tour in recent weeks with a win in Ireland and a second place in Sweden relaunching a stuttering career. But even in the barren years, his tidy game was always a good fit for Le Golf National and he’s been one of the tournament’s most consistent performers. His eight top 20s include a run of 18-8-9 in the last three years.
Siem did everything well when winning this tournament in 2012 while he opened with a 65 when T26 last year and was also T8 in 2004. He’s been in dreadful form over the last few months but snapped a run of five missed cuts with a T47 in Germany on Sunday. If that has turned the corner for him, the pony-tailed one could be a player this week.
The little-known Frenchman gets an honourable mention. First, he’s fourth on the greens in regulation stats (highest on show this week). Second, he will obviously be guaranteed great support. Third, he came eighth here last year and was second with a round to go. A decent T29 in last week’s BMW International Open is also worth noting.
Who’s On The Team?
Francesco Molinari looks a worthy favorite and should score heavily big for fantasy managers this week as well as giving those who like a punt a big run for their money.
Richie Ramsay and David Howell look strong candidates to play well and bettors may have a close look at Brendan Steele, whose course form makes him an interesting play at 33/1.
Victor Riu is available at over 200/1 which is surely with a few Euros.
I’ll reveal my full 10-man line-up for the European Tour’s Fantasy game on Tuesday.
One To Fade
Recent Lyoness Open winner Chris Wood has missed his last two cuts at Le Golf National and also didn’t make the weekend in Germany last time.