Open de France – Le Golf National, Paris
First staged in 1906, the Open de France is the oldest national open in Continental Europe. This is the 100th staging of the tournament and as such the European Tour have given the event extra kudos. They’ve offered extra Ryder Cup points, an enhanced prize pot of an extra €500,000 plus the added incentive of an appearance here counting as double towards a players Race to Dubai minimum requirement. It’s ensured the likes of Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer and Danny Willett tee it up in Paris as opposed across the pond in the WGC Bridgestone that is being played simultaneously.
Le Golf National has been used for all but two staging’s of the Open de France since opening in 1991. The Albatros course is a par 71 with an average length yardage of 7,247 off the tips. This is an exposed, stadium-style golf course that will be hosting the 2018 Ryder Cup. It closed in the spring for several months as the course underwent several alterations, mainly to ensure an improved drainage system was in place. There have been some changes to the bunkers and lake edges, but don’t expect this top-class venue to play any different to previous staging’s. Average winning score for the past five editions has been -8, though Bernd Wiesberger won last year with a score of -13, the lowest score in seven editions.
At this stage a late-early tee time looks preferable. Thursday AM looks the worst time to tee off with stronger winds forecast in the AM than the PM, coupled in with 40% chance of showers. If it does rain on Thursday AM and then the wind drops, the late starters in round one could also get a softer course to attack. Friday PM also looks breezy with the wind set to blow at 14mph. Winds will be consistent on Saturday and Sunday at around the 6-8mph mark but the weekend should be dry.
Previous Winners & Key Stats
2015 – Bernd Wiesberger (DA: 45th, DD 4th, GIR 2nd, PPGIR 28th, Scrambles 10/13)
2014 – Graeme McDowell (DA 17th, DD 59th, GIR 22nd, PPGIR 4th, Scrambles 13/23)
2013 – Graeme McDowell (DA 15th, DD 40th, GIR 1st, PPGIR 29th, Scrambles 11/15)
2012 – Marcel Siem (DA 2nd, DD 5th, GIR 3rd, PPGIR 32nd, Scrambles 13/19)
2011 – Thomas Levet (DA 38th, DD 28th, GIR 3rd, PPGIR 19th, Scrambles 13/19)
No prizes for spotting that Greens in Regulation is the key stat at Le Golf National. Out of the top 11 finishers in 2015, 8 finished inside the top 10 for greens hit during the week. The other 3 finished 12th, 14th and 24th for GIR, so having those irons dialled in is a must to pick up a fat cheque here.
What you do off the tee isn’t that important, but I’d prefer an accurate plotter than a wild bomber round Le Golf National. Former champions McDowell and Levet are far from long off the tee, and last year’s top 11 was full of shorter, straighter types such as Francesco Molinari, Jaco Van Zyl and James Morrison.
Strangely for the European Tour, you don’t have to be bang in form to win the Open de France. Wiesberger won here on the back of finishes reading 27, MC, MC, 2, MC whilst GMac’s first win in 2013 was on the back of MC, MC, MC, 1, MC, 1, MC. Thomas Levet continued that trend in 2011 with form coming in reading MC, MC, 64, 16, 16.
Finally, it is always worth mentioning that 53 of the last 61 European Tour winners (non-majors) have had at least one top 10 in their five appearances prior to their win.
Bernd Wiesberger – 30/1 EW
Twelve months ago I’d have laughed at the prospect of backing of Bernd at such a ‘short’ price. But times have changed, and the one once unreliable Austrian is now one of the European Tour’s leading lights. His Open de France win last year was as impressive as it gets, finishing with a bogey-free closing round of 65 (-6) to win by a comfortable 3 shots. A ball striker of the highest order, Bernd hit 84% of GIR last week on his way to a T7 finish, bettered only by champion Henrik Stenson. GMac has gone back-to-back here and I can see Wiesberger doing the same.
Fabrizio Zanotti – 80/1 EW
Zanotti gets filed in the underrated section when it comes to golf odds compilers pricing and I was delighted to get such a big price on the straight hitting Paraguayan this week. With a T20 last year at Le Golf National and a T9 in 2014, this is clearly a layout Fabrizio enjoys. His recent form is similar to that of his sole European Tour win where he won the BMW event in Germany following performances reading T14, T5, MC, T16. His current form reads T16, T74, T7, MC, T9, 16 and it wouldn’t surprise me see him go even better in Paris this week.
Brandon Stone – 125/1 EW
The young South African wasn’t high on my shortlist this week until I saw his price. A T40 finish last week in Germany didn’t stand out as much as his ball striking stats, in which the current South Africa Open champion hit over 80% of GIR and hit 71% of fairways with an average drive of over 300 yards. Stone is a classy golfer who can win again this season and recent top 10 finishes in Mauritius and China suggest he can improve on the 72, 77 he shot here in 2013.
Clément Sordet – 500/1 outright and 100/1 top 10
A bit of a dart to finish my first Eastbridge golf column with. The 23-year-old Frenchman makes his national open debut having played just 24 events as a professional. He’s already won two of the bigger events on the Challenge Tour in Northern Ireland and Turkey, but it was his finish in Thailand in December on the Asian Tour that caught my eye. Clément just lost out on the trophy to Jamie Donaldson, finishing ahead of Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Benny-An and Kiradech Aphibarnrat on the way to a T2 finish. The quoted price above is just wrong by 200 points and should be jumped on just for the ride!
Prices correct at time of writing.
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