Marcel Siem will launch his defence of the Alstom Open de France alongside Italy’s Matteo Manassero and Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño when the first round gets under way at Le Golf National on Thursday.
Siem, who claimed his second European Tour title by a single stroke 12 months ago, is back in Paris looking to become the first to retain the Open de France crown – the oldest of the continental Opens, dating back to 1906 – since Jean-François Remesy in 2005.
At 0810 local time on Thursday, the German will tee it up with 20 year old Manassero, who is riding high at second in The 2013 Race to Dubai currently largely thanks to his brilliant European Tour victory at the flagship BMW PGA Championship in May, and six-time winner Fernandez-Castaño, fresh from his tied tenth finish at the US Open Championship three weeks ago.
The defending champion will be followed shortly on the tenth tee by a marquee group of real quality, as European Ryder Cup stars Luke Donald and Ian Poulter take to the renowned layout with France’s highest-ranked star in Raphaël Jacquelin.
The Frenchman finished third to Siem in last year’s edition and has already had success in a continental Open this year after triumphing at the Open de España in April.
Robert Rock, meanwhile, will follow at 0830 alongside Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Finland’s Mikkko Ilonen just days after falling narrowly short of victory in the Irish Open at Carton House, where the Englishman finished in a tie for second.
There is a distinctly Ryder Cup feel to this week with five years to go until Le Golf National hosts the transatlantic clash in 2018 and that theme is echoed in the star-studded afternoon marquee groups.
Italy’s Francesco Molinari is one of six members of the victorious European team from the ‘Miracle at Medinah’ on show in Paris this week, and the man who put on a dramatic final-day surge in 2012 to miss out on the title by one shot will drive away at 1300 alongside two-time 2013 champion Brett Rumford and Wales’ Jamie Donaldson.
Molinari’s two-time Ryder Cup team-mate Graeme McDowell will follow from the first with Denmark’s Thomas Bjorn and home-favourite Gregory Bourdy, while 2009 Open de France champion Martin Kaymer, who of course sank the winning putt in Chicago last year, will tee it up with Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez – four times a player in the biennial contest and a vice captain in Illinois.
That three-ball will be completed by Matt Kuchar, who was a member of the losing American side in that unforgettable week last September.