Four players from the world’s top ten - Lee Westwood, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy – lead a world-class field attempting to wrest the Alstom Open de France title from Germany’s Martin Kaymer in Versailles this week.
Europe’s leading players will be joined by Major Champions Angel Cabrera of Argentina, Michael Campbell of New Zealand, Scotland’s Paul Lawrie, Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy and Spain’s José Maria Olazábal, competing for the first time since October, all of whom will bring their considerable experience to bear at Le Golf National in the oldest continental Open.
Last summer Kaymer was unbeatable in a glorious two week spell as he followed his victory in the Alstom Open de France by success in the Barclays Scottish Open at Loch Lomond. He has subsequently added a fifth European Tour title to his growing CV by winning the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in January and the 25 year old will return to Le Golf National fuelled by the fond memories of 12 months ago.
The German defeated Westwood at the first extra hole of a play-off, after they tied on 13 under par – three shots clear of third placed Poulter - to secure the oldest National Open in continental Europe over Le Golf National.
“To beat Lee in the play-off to win the French Open was among the highlights of my career,” said Kaymer. “When I think about it now it actually gives me more satisfaction because Lee has since gone on to show that he is one of the very best players in the world.
“He was one of the best in the world a year ago but you look at what he has done since then and you see an unbelievable player.
“To win such an important title in that way, over that golf course was just awesome. I love the course at the Golf National. It is one of my favourite places to play and I suppose you could say that it is a typical Kaymer course.
“You have to be focused around there..You have to keep the ball in very exact spots to be able to make a score and that is one of my main strengths: controlling my round.
“It will be great to go back there as the defending champion. It was even more special last year because my dad and brother were there to share it with me. I will never forget them coming onto the 18th green to celebrate with me after the play-off. I hope they can join me again there this week.”
There will be plenty of players looking to spoil the Kaymer family party in Versailles, including last week’s BMW International Open champion David Horsey of England, as well as the man who finished in a tie for third last week, the 2008 Alstom Open de France winner Pablo Larrazabal of Spain.
There is also the welcome return of Olazábal to competitive action. The two-time Masters Champion has not played since the CASTELLÓ MASTERS Costa Azahar last October as he battles rheumatic pains. He has been seen only in Pro-Ams since then, winning the one on the eve of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club, but looks set to feature after making good progress recently.