By Will Pearson, europeantour.com
at Le Golf National
With this week marking the 100th edition of the historic Open de France, europeantour.com has delved into the stories behind the centenary to bring you some little known facts about the old event.
1. The Open de France is the seventh tournament to join ‘The 100 Club’
This week sees the Open de France join a select band of revered golf events to have been played 100 times. Only six other national Open Championships worldwide have reached a century of stagings – The Open Championship, US Open, Canadian Open, Australian Open, South African Open and Argentine Open. The Open de France, first played 110 years ago in 1906, secures the honour of becoming the first national Open Championship in Continental Europe to reach the landmark. Only the First and Second World Wars put a temporary halt to proceedings as the event went unplayed from 1915-19 and 1940-45.
2. This tournament is the second most defended event in European Tour history
This year, 2015 winner Bernd Wiesberger will be looking to become the sixth player to make a successful defence of his title since the event became part of the European Tour schedule in 1972. Englishman Peter Oosterhuis triumphed in back-to-back years in 1973-74, legendary Spaniard Seve Ballesteros followed suit in 1985-86, Sir Nick Faldo won twice at Club de Golf Chantilly in as many years in 1988-89, Jean-François Remesy delighted the home faithful at Le Golf National in 2004-05, while, in recent years, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell also achieved the special feat in 2013-14. With six successful defences, the Irish Open still holds the outright record in this statistical category, but for how long?
3. Seve Ballesteros’ 1986 win was extra special
As prefaced by the above nugget, Seve is one of five players to have defended the Open de France title but that is not where the Pedreña native’s record breaking feats end in this tournament. With four Open de France wins to his name (1977, 1982, 1985 and 1986), only Aubrey Boomer has won more with five victories between 1921 and 1931, but the European Tour legend truly saved his best until last. In 1986, Seve became the first player to successfully defend a European Tour title by winning both in wire-to-wire fashion, while his triumph at La Boulie 30 years ago also marked his third win in as many events after also taking top spot at the Irish Open and Johnnie Walker Monte Carlo Open in the preceding two weeks. He remains the last player to win three consecutive events on the European Tour. Legendary.
4. The names Massy and Boomer are synonymous with the Open de France
After three top ten Open Championship finishes in five years at the turn of the 20th century, Frenchman Arnaud Massy won the inaugural Open de France in 1906. One year later, Massy would win again with his second victory coming just nine days after finally hoisting the Claret Jug at Hoylake in The 1907 Open. The Biarritz native remains the only French player to have won a Major title. Massy would win his National Open a further three times with his fourth and final perhaps the most impressive. Wounded at Verdun during the First World War, Massy struggled in his return to golf but triumphed in a play-off at Chantilly in 1925 aged 48. The aforementioned Boomer, meanwhile, would become the most successful name in the history of the Open de France, with the first of his five wins coming in a 36-hole play-off at Le Touquet in 1921 against none other than his former teacher and mentor – Arnaud Massy, who picked up his ball on the 34th hole after falling eight shots behind. Incidentally, Boomer played in the first two Ryder Cup matches in 1927 and 1929.
5. Le Golf National is the most used venue in Open de France history
This week will also mark the 24th edition of the Open de France to be staged across the Albatros course at Le Golf National, situated on the outskirts of Versailles near the French capital of Paris, after the event was first held here back in 1991 when Eduardo Romero won the title. Only nearby La Boulie comes anywhere close to having staged as many Open de France championships, having hosted the event 20 times between 1906 and 1986.
6. Only one amateur has ever won the Open de France
Over the 99 previous editions, Englishman Cyril Tolley remains the only amateur to have won the Open de France. Tolley claimed victory on two occasions, famously holding off 11-time Major Champion Walter Hagen in 1924 before securing a second triumph four years later. Twice crowned Amateur Champion, as well as being a supremely talented golfer Tolley was also an all-round fascinating character; he won the Military Cross at Ypres during the First World War and commanded a company during the Second World War, was a major player on the London Stock Exchange scene and briefly even stood as a Liberal Party politician.
7. The par threes on L’Albatros are no pushover…
Quite remarkably, there has not been a single hole-in-one made at the Open de France since the 2008 event and just three this entire century. Indeed, there have only been a total of six aces in the previous 24 editions held at Le Golf National. To put this in perspective, there have been 762 holes-in-one on the European Tour since the Open de France was first played at Le Golf National in 1991 with less than one per cent of those coming on L’Albatros despite its almost ever-present spot on the schedule.
8. However, there are still plenty of birdies to be found at Le Golf National
Sweden’s Mårten Olander made a staggering eight birdies on the bounce during the first round of the Open de France back in 2002. Olander is one of just ten players to jointly hold the record for most consecutive birdies in a single round on the European Tour in a glittering list that features the likes of Ballesteros, Ian Woosnam and Darren Clarke.
9. Philippe Porquier holds an unwanted European Tour record from this event
From the sublime to the ridiculous. Spare a thought for poor Philippe Porquier, the man in possession of one of the most infamous statistics in European Tour history. During the 1978 edition of the event at La Baule Golf Club, Frenchman Porquier took 20 shots to complete the par five 13th after a number of mishits and lost balls. That remains the most strokes ever taken on a single hole and three more than ‘next best’ – Chris Gane at Gleneagles in 2003 and Andrey Pavlov at the 2015 Lyoness Open. Oh, and if you’re wondering what 15 over par on a single hole is called, it’s a quindecuple bogey.
10. The 18th at Le Golf National was the hardest hole on the European Tour in 2015
Water, water everywhere. The final four holes at this week’s host venue never fail to provide a thrilling finish with plenty of the wet stuff making for excitement galore. But it is the closing hole of The 2018 Ryder Cup venue that tops the lot. At an average of 4.60, the 470-yard par four ranked hardest of any hole played in the 2015 Race to Dubai with just three birdies made there on the final day 12 months ago – one, fittingly, by winner Wiesberger. Tough school.
11. Just one player has won the Open de France three years in a row
Not Seve, not Sir Nick Faldo, nor even the aforementioned, five-time winning Boomer. Frenchman Marcel Dallemagne remains the only player to have won this old trophy three years in a row after returning victorious at Saint-Germain in 1936, Chantilly in 1937 and Fourqueux in 1938.
12. Sir Henry Cotton brought the event back with a bang after the Second World War
When the tournament resumed in 1946 following six blank years due to the global conflict, Sir Henry Cotton won his first of two successive Open de France titles, romping to a massive 15-stroke victory over Belgium’s Flory Van Donck at Saint-Cloud. That remains the biggest winning margin in the long history of the event. Incidentally, Van Donck would go on to win the tournament three times himself, in 1954, 1957 and 1958.
13. The long-serving trophy was first awarded in 1909
After back-to-back wins for Massy in the first two editions, legendary golfer John Henry Taylor travelled to La Boulie in 1908 to secure his first of two successive Open de France titles. In 1909, the five-time Open Champion became the first to lift the historic trophy that is still awarded to the winner today. The impressive silver trophy is known as the Stoïber Cup after Edward George Stoïber, a wealthy American who was pivotal in the creation of ‘Golf de Paris’ – the group responsible for founding what remains the most revered golf event in Continental Europe – the Open de France.
Who will lift that famous old trophy come Sunday evening this week, though? Stay tuned.
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