One of golf’s most historic championships returns this week as the Amundi Open de France becomes the first tournament to be held at Le Golf National since the stunning Paris venue played host to one of the great Ryder Cups last year. Here are five things to know…
Last year’s Tango in Paris
One year on and the remarkable scenes of The 2018 Ryder Cup feel like they happened just yesterday.
The Albatros course at Le Golf National was truly one of the stars of the show just over 12 months ago as Thomas Bjørn’s European team overcame the odds with a memorable 17.5-10.5 victory over Jim Furyk’s USA side.
The exciting lay-out of the Albatros course, paired with the amphitheatre-like terrain surrounding the greens - led many to comment that it was one of the greatest Ryder Cup venues of all time. The unique final four hole stretch in particular – featuring the 15th, 16th and 18th greens surrounded by water and in close proximity to each other – helped provide an incredible atmosphere and unforgettable drama.
The final match of The 2018 Ryder Cup, meanwhile, was a Hollywood ending worthy of the greatest script-writers (see below).
Alexander the Great, the King of Paris
So much drama had already unfolded when Francesco Molinari sealed the winning point for Bjørn’s European team with a Singles victory over Phil Mickelson, it seemed a case of ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’ for 2018 Amundi Open de France champion Alex Noren. The Swede was out in the final match of the Sunday Singles and still playing as the majority of his team-mates began celebrating Europe’s victory.
The ten-time European Tour winner’s piéce de resistance, however, was yet to come as he drained a monster putt on the 18th green – surrounded by all of his team-mates who were already delving into the finest French champagne – to turn the match on its head and claim an unlikely point against Bryson DeChambeau.
His win triggered wild celebrations in front of the home fans – a second winning moment in three months for Noren on Albatros’ final green. Will he get another one this week?
The French Connection
This year has thus far been an extremely successful one for French golf.
Four home-grown players arrive in Paris this week riding high within the top 30 of the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex.
The most recent entrant into the highest echelons of the Rankings is Victor Perez, who three weeks ago became the 16th French winner on the European Tour, emerging victorious at the home of golf to become the first player from his home nation to win the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
For all of the other three players, the 2019 season has been one of near-misses, with Benjamin Hebert coming agonisingly close to a maiden European Tour title on two occasions – first at the Volvo China Open in May and then in July’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.
Mike Lorenzo-Vera has also just missed out on victory on a couple of occasions, first at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and then at the Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation, while Romain Langasque finished runner-up at the South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg in January and picked up two further top three finishes.
With all of those players driving each other on – along with several other talented Frenchmen including Grégory Bourdy, Victor Dubuisson, Rafaël Jacquelin, Alexander Levy and Romain Wattel – could it be a first French victory in this championship since Thomas Levet in 2011?
The French evolution
This is the oldest national open in continental Europe, having first been played in 1906.
That inaugural edition was won by French golfing legend Arnaud Massy, his first of four victories in this championship. The second of those, as he successfully defended his title in 1907, preceded the most famous moment of his career later that year – when the Biarritz native became the first non-Briton to win the Open Championship. No Frenchman has won a Major since.
In total, 20 players with Major titles to their names have also win the Open de France, including Seve Ballesteros, Henry Cotton, Martin Kaymer, Nick Faldo, Retief Goosen, Walter Hagen, Bernhard Langer, Bobby Locke and José María Olazábal, to name but a few.
The treat of Versailles
While Le Golf National has created some history of its own down the years, most notably at last year’s Ryder Cup, it does not come close to the history in the surrounding area of Versailles.
The picturesque Paris suburb is home to one of France’s most iconic historical attractions, the Palace of Versailles. The Palace was home to the French monarchy from 1682 until the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789, when Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were forced to flee to Paris.
The Palace in now a historical monument and a UNESCO World Heritage site and gained further fame in 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in the Hall of Mirrors, formally ending World War One.
For those history buffs among the European Tour ranks, and for travelling fans, it is an attraction not to be missed!