The European Tour heads for Paris this week and the historic Open de France. Graeme McDowell defends the title at Le Golf National, near to the magnificent Palace of Versailles outside the capital.
This event carries one of the largest purses on the regular European Tour—€3 million, with €500,000 to the winner. That means it provides an excellent opportunity for players to climb the Race to Dubai rankings. As such, the tournament tends to attract a strong field, and this year is no exception.
Two-time major winner Martin Kaymer is on the start list along with 2010 U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell and European Ryder Cup stars like Lee Westwood and Jamie Donaldson.
With The Open Championship just two weeks away, many of the European Tour’s best are thinking ahead to the year’s third major and will be using this, and next week’s Scottish Open at Gullane, as preparation.
It’s been exceptionally hot in Paris for the last week or so, and that looks to continue through the tournament. Temperatures of almost 100 degrees are expected, and there might just be a thunderstorm or two to add to the mix.
Four things to watch for at the Alstom Open de France:
1. Graeme McDowell will be going for three straight wins in this event. He took the title in 2013 by four strokes over Richard Sterne of South Africa. Then, last year, the Northern Irishman overturned an eight-shot deficit to sneak past Kevin Stadler of the USA and win by a stroke. Stadler missed a succession of short putts, including a two-footer on the final green that would have forced a playoff. McDowell hasn’t been on sparkling form this year and will look to draw on good memories at Le Golf National to kick-start his season.
2. The course. It’s worth taking note of the course this week as in 2018, it will play host to the Ryder Cup. Le Golf National was designed on flat farmland near the Palace of Versailles and the layout is the work of architect Hubert Chesneau. Construction began in 1987 and by 1990 the course was open for play. This will be the 23rd time the course has been used as the venue for the Open de France. It’s a testing track and generally produces a winning total of single digits under par.
3. The 2014 European Ryder Cup players in the field. Along with Graeme McDowell, other European team members teeing it up at Le Golf National are: Thomas Bjørn, Jamie Donaldson, Victor Dubuisson, Stephen Gallacher, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood.
Germany’s Kaymer is also a former winner of this tournament. He defeated Lee Westwood in a playoff for the title in 2009.
4. The history. First contested in 1906, this will be the 99th installment of the French Open. Home player Arnaud Massy claimed the inaugural championship and he took his national title three more times, lastly in 1925 when he was 48 years old. Part of the European Tour schedule since the circuit’s inception in 1972, the event has seen some notable winners. Nick Faldo, Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman and Colin Montgomerie have all been champions over the years.