With the European Tour taking something of a breather for this week and next before the WGC HSBC Champions and 3 consecutive Rolex Series events see us home for the season, we’re heading to last year’s Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National for a very low-key French Open before we go to Vilamoura in a week’s time for a similarly low-grade affair.
Relegation to regular event status and a massive reduction in the prize fund from $7m to €1.6m has seen the quality of field take a huge drop this year with no representation from the OWGR top-50 whatsoever, undoubtedly fuelled further by the prize money on offer at the CJ Cup which is being played in South Korea this week also.
Defending champion Alex Noren heads the field at a best-priced 12/1 at the time of writing, from Mike Lorenzo-Vera (14/1) and Erik Van Rooyen (16/1). Matthias Schwab, Thomas Pieters and Joost Luiten all rate as 20/1 shots or shorter in this 120-man field, which has been reduced due to the lower levels of daylight in the northern hemisphere at this late stage of the year.
Le Golf National, Paris, France. Designer: Hubert Chesneau, 1990; Par: 71; Length: 7,245 yards; Water Hazards: 6; Fairways: Bent/Rye/Fescue; Rough: Bent/Rye/Fescue; Greens: Bent/Meadow Grass, 12’6″ on the stimp.
Course Overview. Le Golf National is always set up strongly for this event and danger lurks on many holes if you miss fairways with water at the start and end of each round.
The 7,245 yard, par-71 stadium course was designed to test the very best golfers with a premium on accurate driving and, in particular, approaches to the difficult, undulating greens. Missing greens isn’t a great option here as scrambling is tough, so attacking from the fairway has to be the only real strategy and finding the right parts of greens with any consistency is only really possible from the short stuff.
The last few renewals have seen a mix of dry conditions (2010, 2013, 2015, 2018) and wet (2011, 2012) and a combination of both (2014, 2016, 2017); wet or dry the rough here is amongst the very toughest on the European Tour, plus some of the holes are pretty brutal in terms of length – the 17th (480 yards) and 18th (471 yards) play amongst the most difficult on the week.
Tournament Stats. We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s Open de France that will help to shape a view on players who traditionally play well at this event: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader Stats | Combined Form Stats.
Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.
Winners & Prices. 2018: Alex Noren, 16/1; 2017: Tommy Fleetwood, 22/1; 2016: Thongchai Jaidee, 66/1; 2015: Bernd Wiesberger, 33/1; 2014: Graeme McDowell, 12/1; 2013: Graeme McDowell, 25/1; 2012: Marcel Siem, 70/1; 2011: Thomas Levet, 140/1; 2010: Miguel Angel Jimenez, 80/1.
Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Paris is here. Whereas last year’s renewal was played in near perfect conditions with the mercury topping 80 Fahrenheit each day, this year will see more autumnal conditions.
Rain is possible for each of the first 3 days with temperatures struggling to reach 60 Fahrenheit in the afternoons and a moderate breeze of 10-15mph throughout. Sunday promises to be a dry, crisp day with lighter winds for those battling for the title coming down the stretch.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors.
Analysing the final stats of the past 8 winners at Le Golf National gives us a little more insight into the type of player suited to this test:
- 2018, Alex Noren (-7). 75% fairways (2nd), 75% greens in regulation (5th), 55.6% scrambling (8th), 1.76 putts per GIR (37th)
- 2017, Tommy Fleetwood (-12). 76.8% fairways (3rd), 84.7% greens in regulation (1st), 63.6% scrambling (9th), 1.84 putts per GIR (53rd)
- 2016, Thongchai Jaidee (-11). 62.5% fairways (22nd), 69.% greens in regulation (18th), 68.2% scrambling (2nd), 1.68 putts per GIR (3rd)
- 2015, Bernd Wiesberger (-13). 55.4% fairways (45th), 81.9% greens in regulation (2nd), 76.9% scrambling (3rd), 1.80 putts per GIR (33rd)
- 2014, Graeme McDowell (-5). 62.5% fairways (17th), 68.1% greens in regulation (22nd), 56.5% scrambling (15th), 1.69 putts per GIR (4th).
- 2013, Graeme McDowell (-9). 71.4% fairways (15th), 79.2% greens in regulation (1st), 73.3% scrambling (2nd), 1.76 putts per GIR (29th).
- 2012, Marcel Siem (-8). 73.2% fairways (2nd), 73.6% greens in regulation (3rd), 63.2% scrambling (4th), 1.78 putts per GIR (32nd).
- 2011, Thomas Levet (-7). 67.9% fairways (38th), 73.6% greens in regulation (3rd), 68.4% scrambling (8th), 1.77 putts per GIR (19th).
- 2010, Miguel Angel Jimenez (-11). 76.8% fairways (16th), 77.8% greens in regulation (11th), 56.3% scrambling (38th), 1.64 putts per GIR (3rd).
Le Golf National is perennially described as a course where tee-to-green excellence prevails and I agree with that to an extent; however minimising bogeys with an excellent short game shouldn’t be underestimated here either.
For a player to contend here they’re going to have to find the vast majority of greens in regulation or minimise bogeys with an excellent week around the greens; the winner is ultimately likely to excel in both areas over the four days.
On the subject of scrambling, Alex Noren sat 8th on that count after 72 holes last year; Tommy Fleetwood ranked 9th the year before and runner-up Peter Uihlein led the field with an excellent 82.6%. Thonchai Jaidee ranked 2nd in the field for getting the ball up and down in 2016; players ranked 1st to 5th for scrambling finished inside the top 6 overall in 2015; 1st, 2nd and 6th for scrambling finished inside the final top 5 in 2014; likewise in 2013 players ranked 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th and 6th for scrambling finished inside the top 6; 2012 had players ranked 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th for scrambling finish inside the top 4 and 2011 had similar stats with 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th ranked players for scrambling finishing inside the top 7.
This all makes sense when you consider that the greens here are designed to be played firm and fast so they’ll be difficult to hold for all but the very best tee-to-green practitioners in anything but soft conditions.
Incoming Form: Form-wise there’s a really mixed bag when looking at the winners in recent years: Alex Noren was clearly in good nick last year having recorder 4 consecutive top-25 finishes, as was Tommy Fleetwood who’d finished 4th at the US Open and 6th at the BMW International Open immediately prior to his success here 2 years ago; Jaidee hadn’t recorded a single top-10 finish in 2016 prior to winning; Wiesberger had finished 27th in Germany the week before and 2nd in Ireland, however in between those results were 4 missed cuts; McDowell improved on his 6th place finish in Ireland on his previous start before defending his title 3 years ago and was in the middle of his win-or-bust run when he arrived here the year before with form of MC/1/MC/1/MC/MC/MC; Marcel Siem was in decent nick with 4 top-10s to his name in 2012 prior to victory, whereas Tomas Levet hadn’t recorded a top 10 all season prior to his emotional (and for him painful) victory the year before.
Jimenez had missed 3 cuts in his last 5 attempts before his triumph here in 2010; Kaymer was coming into form in 2009 when he won, however he’d missed the cut the week before; Larrazabal was a shock outsider who came through qualifying in 2008; Storm had managed a couple of top 10s in his last 10 starts in 2007; Bickerton had missed 4 of 5 cuts in 2006 and Remesy’s successful defence in 2005 came off the back of a very poor season. All in all a very mixed bag.
- 2018, Alex Noren: 36/3/MC/MC/17/3/23/25
- 2017, Tommy Fleetwood: 39/MC/2/41/MC/MC/4/6
- 2016, Thongchai Jaidee: WD/14/28/33/57/MC/MC/31/52/38
- 2015, Bernd Wiesberger: MC/22/33/34/MC/MC/2/MC/MC/27
- 2014, Graeme McDowell: 5/46/9/10/MC/23/62/24/28/6
- 2013, Graeme McDowell: 9/3/45/MC/1/MC/1/MC/MC/MC
- 2012, Marcel Siem: 2/17/52/29/MC/12/7/33/6/57
- 2011, Thomas Levet: 42/MC/MC/MC/11/17/16/64/MC/MC
- 2010, Miguel Angel Jimenez: 52/12/17/17/MC/MC/8/MC/49
Course Form (back to 2010): It’s also interesting to note that 12 of the past 14 winners here had previously recorded a top-25 or better on this course prior to their success, so looking for players with a strong track record here has generally proven to be a positive strategy.
Tommy Fleetwood’s win in 2017 blew that logic apart though as he’d previously failed to make the weekend on four attempts here before winning his second title of the season, however generally that trend has held firm. Since 2010, course form of the winners here is as follows:
- 2018, Alex Noren: MC/MC/MC/78/37/15/MC/8/10
- 2017, Tommy Fleetwood: MC/MC/MC/MC
- 2016, Thongchai Jaidee: MC/MC/36/31/MC/26/15/MC/2/10
- 2015, Bernd Wiesberger: 62/47/13/18
- 2014, Graeme McDowell: 18/4/MC/MC/13/MC/17/1
- 2013, Graeme McDowell: 18/4/MC/MC/13/MC/17
- 2012, Marcel Siem: DQ/23/8/21/72/66/WD/18/52
- 2011, Thomas Levet: MC/MC/MC/50/15/34/68/MC/58/30/69/MC
- 2010, Miguel Angel Jimenez: MC/23/23/8/55/MC/MC/66/25
The change in scheduling and relegation from Rolex Series status for this event has undoubtedly changed the dynamic in terms of field strength, however the demands of Le Golf National remain the same and this course isn’t for the faint of heart.
Cooler, damper conditions will make the course play on the long side, however with a little breeze in the forecast this will demand strong ball-striking as well as a competent short game for players who have aspirations of taking the title on Sunday. Le Golf National is often described as having inland links characteristics and players with a liking for that style of golf often excel here.
My selections are as follows: