Pablo Larrazabal staged a stunning final day charge to pip the field by one at last week’s BMW International Open and it was similarly close at the top of our Fantasy Golf leaderboard. Alexander Mackie posted 119 points to take the win by just four, his ‘Under Par’ team containing the Spanish winner, runner-up Henrik Stenson and top-11 finishers David Howell and Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
With the Open now just a fortnight away, preparations step up a gear this week as the Tour heads to Paris for the Open de France. Seven of Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup squad from a year ago – McDowell, Kaymer, Westwood, Bjorn, Donaldson, Dubuisson and Gallacher – are amongst those here for a tune-up.
Around 20 miles outside the capital, 2018 Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National hosts the national open for the 14th straight year. Plenty of big names have triumphed over the stadium-style course in that time with Graeme McDowell winning the two most recent renewals. There is a links feel to the par 71 and that will be heightened this week as temperatures of up to 39 celsius make all 7,331 yards firm and fast.
With plenty of trouble lurking, particularly over the closing four holes, this undulating layout has always been a test of accuracy over length and conditions this week should exaggerate that. McDowell was 17th for driving accuracy and 22nd for greens in regulation last year (15th and first in 2013) but down in 59th for driving distance (40th in 2013). His putter was on-song too, averaging 27.8 putts per round (second for the week) as he overturned an eight-shot final round deficit to post five-under and beat Thongchai Jaidee and Kevin Stadler by one. Here’s my line-up this week…
Martin Kaymer, £3.5m
A disappointing couple of weeks for the German who failed to make the cut in defence of his US Open title at Chambers Bay before repeating the trick at his home event in Munich last week. Will be desperate to make amends and history says he will do. Finishes of 12th, 13th, 70th, fourth, sixth and first here in his last six appearances.
Lee Westwood, £2.8m
Westy has been solid if unspectacular of late, making his last three cuts but mustering nothing higher than 38th come close of play on Sunday. He’s making his first appearance here since 2012 and should enjoy the test of accuracy. He was runner-up in 2009 and fifth the year before that.
Francesco Molinari, £1.6m
The Italian has been in stellar form on the PGA Tour since the start of June, recording finishes of third (Memorial), 27th (US Open) and 25th (Travelers). That consistency has been fuelled by his unerring ability to find fairways and greens as he lies first for driving accuracy and second for greens in regulation on the PGA Tour this term. He’s recorded finishes of 26th, 18th and second on his last three starts in Paris.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello, £1.1m
Will this finally be his week? The Spaniard has been in sparkling form over the past month but can’t quite get over the winning line. A Saturday 74 put paid to his chances in Germany last week as he eventually finished 11th – his fourth straight top-15. He’s made his last three cuts here and sits seventh in greens in regulation on the European Tour.
Gregory Bourdy, £1.0m
I had to pick a Frenchman in my line-up and it’s Bourdy who gets the nod despite stiff competition from the likes of Dubuisson, Stal, Havret, Quesne and Jacquelin. Bourdy is another who has been ultra-consistent recently, making his last nine cuts and finishing sixth at the Lyoness Open three weeks ago. Rankings of 25th for driving accuracy and seventh for greens in regulation mean his game should survive the test with finishes of 12th (2014) and sixth (2010) adding substance.
David Howell, £0.9m
The Englishman should be buoyed by a final round 65 at last week’s BMW International Open that saw him to a ninth-place finish. He sits in the top 11 on Tour for putting and stroke average and boasts a good record here, finishing 35th, eighth and fourth in the last three seasons.