Golf and fashion have, on occasion, not enjoyed the best of relationships over the years. The sartorially challenged Simon Hobday famously wrote to one clothing manufacturer demanding £200 a week or he would start wearing their clothes!
And who can forget, despite his best efforts, the lime green shirt and checked trouser combination of Tom Watson in the famous ‘Duel in the Sun’ with Jack Nicklaus during the Open Golf Championship at Turnberry in 1977?
Thankfully the Trophée Lancôme is one event where the worlds of golf and fashion meet without a garish clash of colours, and where, quite often, a glance into the crowd is almost as entertaining as the golf itself.
Fittingly, then, it was the elegant Retief Goosen who proved himself a cut above the rest in the 34th and final edition of the tournament which has graced The European Tour International Schedule over the years.
From the moment he posted a first round 63, denied a share of the course record only by a last hole bogey five, Goosen looked set fair for a fourth victory on French soil following his Open de France victories of 1997 and 1999 and his previous Trophée Lancôme triumph in 2000.
“It must be the red wine,” joked the South African when asked for the recipe for such sustained success across the Channel from his English base in Ascot. Indeed, the winner of the Volvo Order of Merit in both 2001 and 2002 might well have had the rest of the field seeking a comforting drop of the vin rouge themselves after a second round 65 stretched his lead to four shots at halfway.
That it was not ultimately a cakewalk in front of the catwalk cognoscenti, however, was down to the determined challenges of Ryder Cup hero Paul McGinley and young Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts, at only 20, surely a star of the future.
McGinley posted a third round 66 but was still praying for a “helping hand” from Goosen to give the chasing pack hope going into the final day. Barely had the words come out of his mouth before his prayers were answered, the 2001 US Open Champion dropping a shot on the treacherous 18th to see his lead reduced to three shots.
Goosen remained confident, however, pointing out that the majority of his victories, including that memorable Major win at Southern Hills Country Club, had come when leading from the front.
Surely there would be no repeat of the dramatic conclusion to the 2001 Trophée Lancôme when he let slip a four shot lead over the last four holes to a charging Sergio Garcia? There was not, despite first Colsaerts then McGinley causing Goosen a few anxious moments early in the round.
Colsaerts, who turned professional on his 18th birthday in November 2000 and later that same month became the youngest player to achieve his card through the Qualifying School by battling through all three stages, twice trimmed Goosen’s five shot lead back to just two with an eagle on the sixth and a birdie on the eighth.
But it was McGinley who was to get closest to the reigning European Number One on the pivotal 11th hole, the Irishman holing from eight feet for birdie while Colsaerts found water to the back of the green to take six, and Goosen bogeyed after a wayward drive.
Was the 34 year old’s Goose cooked? Not a chance.
A birdie on the 12th calmed his nerves before the shot of the week, a beautifully controlled approach to the 13th which spun back to within inches of the hole, effectively sealed the deal.
“It was tough because I was struggling all day, especially with my driver,” admitted Goosen after a closing 70 gave him an 18 under par total of 266, a four shot winning margin over McGinley and his first victory of the year. “I was hitting it all over the golf course and used most of the golf course to get it done.
“But it’s a special victory as this is the last Trophée Lancôme and if they don’t want the trophy, definitely one of the great trophies in golf, I’ll be happy to find a place for it at home!”
Local favourite Raphaël Jacquelin was unable to provide the fairytale home victory for the final tournament, but four rounds in the 60s gave the crowd plenty to cheer as he claimed third place alongside Ian Poulter, who knows a thing or two about fashion given the amount of column inches his hairstyle attracts.
With the weather even playing its part by bathing the final two days in glorious sunshine, it all added up to a fitting farewell to a wonderful event.