Thomas Levet will look to put his injury nightmare behind him when he assumes the role of returning hero at the Alstom Open de France title from July 5-8.
Inspired by the fervent home crowd at Le Golf National last year, Levet followed in the footsteps of 2004 and 2005 winner Jean-François Remesy to become only the second Frenchman to win the Alstom Open de France since the advent of The European Tour in 1972.
Just six weeks after Le Golf National was announced as the host venue for The 2018 Ryder Cup, former Ryder Cup player Levet was held aloft by the French fans and his fellow professionals after claiming his sixth European Tour title.
Levet finished one shot clear of Thorbjørn Olesen and joint third round leader Mark Foster after holding his nerve over Le Golf National’s notoriously difficult closing stretch.
However his joy was tempered when, in the midst of his celebrations, he jumped into the greenside lake at Le Golf National’s closing hole and broke his leg, an injury which cost him two months of the season and his place at The Open Championship.
Further injury woe struck at the start of this season when Levet suffered a broken rib after falling down steps off a tee box at the Volvo Golf Champions.
The 43 year has since struggled with his game, but he is hoping returning to the passionate home support at Le Golf National can once again inspire him to reproduce his best form.
“The celebrations last year were great and jumping in the water was good, but the broken leg was not so good,” said Levet. “I went straight to hospital after the press conference and then came back to the course to celebrate with my friends with a cast on my leg. It was quite an experience.
“It took two months to recover, but that was fine. Far worse was the broken rib I suffered this year. It took more from my game than the leg. I made the cut as soon as I came back from the leg injury but since I broke my ribs I have not made a cut, and I have not played very well. But the game is not that far away. I am hoping for a good month in July, and then in August and September. The season is only halfway through, so I am hoping for a good second half.
“The win last year was huge. To win your own national Open is always very special and particularly at Le Golf National. I used to play golf ten minutes from there, I went to school less than 20 minutes away and I lived just 15 minutes away, so it was very special. And I did it in front of my family, my kids and my friends. Every time I walked onto a green I could see their faces and it was this that maybe pushed me to win. I felt even from Thursday that I could win and it was a very strange feeling.”
Levet will certainly face a stern test as he attempts to become the first player since compatriot Remesy seven years ago to successfully defend continental Europe’s oldest Open title.
The strong field for this year’s Alstom Open de France contains World Number Three Lee Westwood and Major Champions including Darren Clarke, Retief Goosen, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell.
“It is going to be wild at Le Golf National,” said Levet. “I think they have already sold out. The course is going to be really tough, much more difficult than last year because of the weather. Last year we hadn’t had much rain but this year we have had a lot and the rough is going to be so thick.
“It is tough to control. It will be interesting but the tournament gets better every year. The course is a beast but can be very playable with the right pin positions and there is a lot of drama on that golf course. That’s why the crowd love it.”