The wait is over. Thirty-five years after France last celebrated a home winner of the Open de France, Jean-Francois Remesy delighted the record crowds with a magnificent seven stroke victory over the Australian left-handers Richard Green and Nick O’Hern at Le Golf National.
Jean Garaialde, the last Frenchman to win the oldest of the continental Opens in 1969, was there at the prize presentation to hand the trophy to Remesy. All afternoon the crowds cheered their hero on and they were not to be disappointed.
“It is a great weekend for golf, a great weekend for me and a great weekend for France,” declared Remesy, moments after being thrown into the lake surrounding the 18th green by his fellow French players.
"The reaction is unbelievable. This is what I work for, for that moment in golf. If I look back a few years I could not imagine I could win that tournament. I won in Estoril and my second goal was to win another one, a big one. After a Major I cannot win bigger for me because the pressure was unbelievable. It is fantastic for myself and for the people who support me.”
Starting the final round three strokes clear of Green, Remesy got off to the worst possible start with a double bogey on the first. But he steadied the nerves with a birdie on the second and after his bogey on the third he did not drop another stroke. Green, who also started with a bogey, closed the gap to one with a birdie on the third but Remesy remained just out of reach.
Three dropped shots in the five holes after the turn saw Green fall four behind and his challenge was effectively over. All doubt was removed when Remesy played a stunning tee shot to the par three 16th to with a few feet and although Green also birdied, Remesy was not to be denied. Laying up short of the water on the 18th, he then hit a sand wedge to eight feet and holed the putt as the crowd erupted.
“I don’t realise for the moment what this means,” added Remesy. I tried to stay completely focused all day long. I started really badly and maybe that was the best thing for me because I was nervous and the double bogey on the first just relieved me. After that I tried to play my game and I played really, really well today.
“The crowds were fantastic. They used to be not so good but now they understand golf and all day, even for a bad shots, they tried to encourage me. It is a wonderful moment.”
Victory earned Remesy the €500,000 first prize and lifted him to fourth in the Volvo Order of Merit with €887,290. It also lifted him to fifth in the European Ryder Cup Points List and very much in the frame for a place in the European Team for Oakland Hills in September.
He also becomes the leading player, not otherwise exempt, in a cumulative money list which closes after next week’s Smurfit European Open from which the top two players qualify for the Open Golf Championship at Royal Troon.
Green, looking for his first title since the 1997 Dubai Desert Classic, finished with a four over par 75 to tie second place with O’Hern, whose form of late has seen him finish fourth, third, joint second in his last three events.
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell finished fourth after closing with a new course record 64 over the altered Le Golf National layout, his seven under par round lifting him from joint 30th after the third round and earning him a Rolex watch as the lowest round of the weekend.