Just over 12 months after Europe’s comprehensive victory over the USA in the Ryder Cup, top level professional golf returns to Le Golf National with the 2019 Open de France. This year’s tournament doesn’t quite have the same level of star power as the Ryder Cup or recent renewals of the Open de France but it’s still a high level European Tour event with some big names present.
Joost Luiten is one of the biggest draws in the field. He isn’t a global superstar by any means but the vast majority of his competitors would love the career that he’s had so far. Luiten is a six time European Tour winner who has bags of experience of this tournament so may well be the man to beat come Sunday.
It’s fair to say that few of the members of the American Ryder Cup team left Paris with too many positive things to say about Le Golf National. The 7,245 yard, par 71 layout is a long way removed from your typical PGA Tour venue. With penal rough, strategic hazards and greens that are tough to hit, Le Golf National is the sort of course where accuracy trumps power nine times out of 10.
As it showed when hosting the Ryder Cup, the Stadium Course was specifically designed to be spectator friendly. There are some excellent vantage points around tees and greens for fans to watch the action, especially down the closing stretch. Le Golf National has provided some thrilling finishes over the years and it would not be a surprise if things are very tight as the final group begins the back nine on Sunday.
|Le Golf National||Paris, France||7,245 Yards||€1,600,000|
Le Golf National is the sort of course that favours accuracy off the tees and high class approach shots into the greens. That much is clear from the list of recent winners, each of whom utilised some wonderful iron play from the fairways into the greens.
In more recent years Alex Noren and Tommy Fleetwood have made the most of their above average power to score well on the tough longer holes on the layout but the successes of Thongchai Jaidee and Graeme McDowell shows that shorter hitters can thrive providing they are right on top of their game in terms of hitting long irons and even fairway woods into the greens.
|Year||Winner||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2018||Alex Noren||-7||1 Stroke|
|2017||Tommy Fleetwood||-12||1 Stroke|
|2016||Thongchai Jaidee||-11||4 Strokes|
|2015||Bernd Wiesberger||-13||3 Strokes|
|2014||Graeme McDowell||-5||1 Stroke|
Analysis: Avoiding Danger Absolutely Vital
Every golfer begins a tournament looking to shoot some birdies. The winning score of the Open de France has been -11 or better three times in the last five years so birdies will be on the mind of every player in Paris but it’s the avoidance of bogeys, double bogeys and even worse that is of most importance at Le Golf National.
The Stadium Course has beaten up hundreds of European Tour players over the years and is sure to take some more scalps this week. It really is the sort of track where a bad few holes can ruin a tournament so the players contesting the lead come Sunday will have to hang tough and scramble their way out of trouble when it inevitably presents itself.
Luiten the Pick of the Favourites
Long odds winners of the Open de France are relatively rare. All but one of the last six winners went off at 25/1 or shorter and whilst the calibre of the field isn’t as high as recent years, it does make sense to focus on the top part of the market for an outright win bet.
Defending champion Alex Noren is the narrow favourite with the bookies but it’s Joost Luiten who looks the most tempting bet at 16/1 with Ladbrokes. The Dutchman didn’t always find Le Golf National to his liking but seemed to work the course out in 2014. Since then he hasn’t missed a cut in Paris and has claimed a top 10 finish. Remember, those decent recent results came against a higher calibre of opponent than he’ll face this week.
Luiten heads to Paris on the back of a solid week at the Italian Open where he finished 25th. His long term form is also good with no missed cuts since the Scottish Open. Luiten has the game to thrive around Le Golf National and has proven time and time again that he has the class to beat this standard of opponent. He should at least go close to European Tour title number seven.
Can Kjeldsen Contend Again?
Soren Kjeldsen has barely missed a renewal of the Open de France since he joined the European Tour. The Dane has always thrived on the sort of golf courses that put a premium on accuracy and is one of the best players in the world in terms of long irons, hybrids and fairway woods. As one of the shortest hitters about, Kjeldesen hits more of those clubs than most of his opponents but he is more than up to the challenge and even finds that his chances of victory are better the tougher conditions are.
Kjeldsen will head to Paris hoping that the event organisers have decided to be very mean with the set-up of Le Golf National this week. A lower winning score combined with the tough weather conditions in the forecast for the end of the tournament will give Kjeldsen hope that he can contend at 80/1 with Betfred.
Final Verdict: Joost Luiten to Win
The Open de France may no longer be a Rolex Series event but it is still one of the most prestigious tournaments on the European Tour. Victory would mean a huge deal for every single one of the players in the field for this year’s renewal. That’s especially true of Joost Luiten who had to battle hard to overcome the effects of a long standing wrist injury. He’s played well in recent weeks and can win in Paris at 16/1 with Ladbrokes whilst Soren Kjeldsen looks good each way value at 80/1 with Betfred.
About the Open de France
The first Open de France took place way back in 1906, making this the oldest national open in mainland Europe (obviously The Open is older, having started way back in 1860). Nowadays, the Open de France takes place annually on the European Tour.
The tournament is played at Le Golf National, which has been the event’s home since 1991, except from 1999 and 2001 when it was held in Medoc and Lyon, respectively. Le Golf National is one of Europe’s finest courses, with the Ryder Cup being played there in 2018. Also, the course is scheduled to host the golf event of the Olympics in 2024.
This historic European Tour competition has been won by many greats over the years, including the likes of Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros. Despite the long history of the tournament it has been won by players from the United States on only three occasions, with Barry Jaeckel being the most recent in 1972.
Since 1980, this tournament has had various sponsors, with Paco Rabanne being the first. Peugeot, Novotel Perrier, Alstom and HNA have all sponsored the event since. From 2019, the tournament has been known as the Amundi Open de France due to the sponsorship provided by the French asset management firm.
Massy Kicks Things Off
The first Open de France was won by Frenchman Arnaud Massy. Massy, who would become one of France’s most successful golfers, made a huge impact on this tournament in the early years. Following on from winning the inaugural event in 1906, Massy won the Open de France in 1907, 1911 and 1925.
Biarritz-born Massey would go on to have a fine career in golf, picking up 17 professional wins, including his victory in the The Open Championship in 1907. After dominating the early years, Massey will always be a big part of the Open de France history.
While Massy is France’s most successful Open de France player, only one man has won three tournaments in a row. In 1936, 1937 and 1938, Marcel Dallemagne, from Le Port-Marly, picked up a hat-trick of French Open trophies. He never managed to win a major though, his best performance being a tied third place finish in The Open in 1936.
Levet’s Famous Win on Home Soil
Before Thomas Levet’s famous victory in 2011, the French faithful had not seen a home winner since Jean-Francois Remesy’s back-to-back victories in 2004 and 2005. Levet’s triumph was his sixth career title.
In windy conditions at Le Golf National, Levet edged past Mark Foster and Thorbjorn Olesen by a stroke. “It was great, the atmosphere today. If you have ever been to a Ryder Cup, that is what it is like,” Levet said after picking up his one and only French Open trophy.
Levet came close to winning a major in 2002 when he finished tied for second at Muirfield. He made a four-player playoff with South African Ernie Els, and Australians Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington. After Appleby and Elkington scored bogeys on the opening hole of the playoff it was down to Levet and Els. Alas, Levet put his tee shot in a bunker and scored a bogey, leaving Els to hole a par putt and claim the title.
French Winners of the Open de France (1906 to 2019)
|1906, 1907, 1911, 1925||Arnaud Massy|
|1936, 1937, 1938||Marcel Dallemagne|
|2004, 2005||Jean-Francois Remesy|
The Golden Years – Ballesteros and Faldo’s Dominance
Many of the world’s best have competed in the Open de France since the tournament started. In the early years of the French Open on the European Tour, the likes of Seve Ballesteros, Bernard Gallacher and Peter Oosterhuis claimed Open de France wins.
Shortly after, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer added their names to the trophy. From 1982 to 1989, Ballesteros and Faldo dominated the French Open, with the pair winning six of the eight tournaments. During that time, German great Langer secured the trophy in 1984. Between them Faldo, Langer and Ballesteros won a staggering 122 European tour titles, and they are the first (Ballesteros), second (Langer) and fifth (Faldo) in the all-time list of European Tour winners.
McDowell’s Double Delight
Many Brits have lifted the Open de France trophy throughout the years. The first was in 1908 as Englishman John Henry Taylor ensured Arnaud Massy was not able to land the hat-trick (after the Frenchman had won the first two tournaments). Since then, the likes of Peter Oosterhuis, Nick Faldo and Paul Broadhurst – among several others – have won this event.
However, Graeme McDowell made history in 2013 when he became the first man from Northern Ireland to win France’s national tournament. McDowell was sensational at Le Golf National, beating Richard Sterne by four strokes when finishing with a score of 275, nine under par. ‘G-Mac’ retained the trophy a year later, this time by edging out Thongchai Jaidee and Kevin Stadler by just a single stroke, this time with a score of five under par.
Boomer Still the Record Winner
No man has won the French Open on more occasions than Aubrey Boomer. The Jersey-born ace picked up five Open de France victories during his career, with the first of those coming in 1921. Boomer dominated this tournament in the 1920s, with four of his five successes coming in this decade.
His first victory in 1921 was arguably the most historic, as Boomer beat his former golf teacher Arnaud Massey in a playoff. Aubrey’s last win came at Deauville in 1931, beating Percy Alliss and Tomas Genta by 2 strokes.
|Years||Aubrey Boomer’s French Open Wins||Score||Winning Margin|
|1922||La Boulie||286||9 strokes|
Infrequent American Winners
As mentioned there have been only three winners of the Open de France from the United States. While it is not uncommon for European Tour events to have few US victors (as they tend to focus on the PGA Tour events), we would usually expect an event that stretches this far back to have seen more.
The three American winners are:
- Barry Jaeckel – Won in 1972 in a playoff against Clive Clark
- Byron Nelson – Won in 1955 by two strokes from Harry Weetman
- Walter Hagen – Won in 1920 in a playoff against Eugene Lafitte