Stephen Leaney and Justin Rose return to action for the first time since their outstanding performances in the US Open Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club when they tee up in the Open de France at Le Golf National in Paris this week.
Leaney, the reigning Linde German Masters champion, was in inspired form in Illinois as he challenged Jim Furyk for the title, carding rounds of 67-68-68-72 for a five under par total of 275 to finish runner-up, his best performance in a Major Championship.
Rose also put in a commendable performance, joining fellow European Tour Member Fredrik Jacobson in a share of fifth place, after the Swede had qualified to compete in his first US Open Championship.
Leaney and Rose join a high calibre field in the oldest championship on Continental Europe, played at Le Golf National for the 11th time. Also playing are reigning Volvo PGA Champion Ignacio Garrido of Spain in addition to Denmark’s Thomas Björn, Pierre Fulke of Sweden, Paul McGinley of Ireland and WelshmanPhillip Price, all members of Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup Team last September.
Another Dane, Søren Kjeldsen, takes his place in the field after claiming his first European Tour title in last week’s Diageo Championship at Gleneagles.
England’s Malcolm Mackenzie will be defending the title following his victory 12 months ago when he ended a 20 year wait for his first European Tour title. Playing in his 509th European Tour event Mackenzie produced the shot of his life, hitting a two iron to 15 feet on the island green at the final hole to set up a birdie four to win by a shot from South Africa’s Trevor Immelman.
Immelman is also back in action this week hoping to go one better than last year and add to his two titles he has already won this season – the South African Airways Open on The European Tour International Schedule and the Dimension Data Pro-Am on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa.
The field is further strengthened by the presence of double Masters Tournament Champion José Maria Olazábal, who won the Open de France two years ago. Eduardo Romero, the reigning Barclays Scottish Open champion who finished tied 15th in the US Open Championship, will tee up along with Adam Scott, a double winner on The European Tour in 2002.
The Albatross Course was opened in 1990 after the French Federation, together with their principal course designer, Hubert Chesneau, took the decision to turn the area of completely flat ground into the first ‘National’ golf complex in France.
The Championship itself is steeped in history, dating back to the first winner, Arnaud Massy, in 1906, to legends such as James Braid, Henry Cotton, Walter Hagen, Bobby Locke, J H Taylor and Roberto de Vicenzo.