The European Tour kicks into overdrive starting this week with three-consecutive Rolex Series events leading into the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie.
The first Rolex event on tap is the 102nd HNA Open De France at Le Golf National just outside of Paris. The long-running national open tournament is contested on the property’s Albatros course – a par-72 layout measuring 7,331 yards.
Headlined by top-20 ranked stars Justin Thomas (No. 2), Jon Rahm (No.5), Tommy Fleetwood (No. 10), Alex Noren (No. 16), and Sergio Garcia (No. 19), the Open De France field will also include 21 additional top-100 ranked players, including France’s own Alex Levy, and Matt Wallace, the winner of last week’s BMW International Open.
Here are more details about this week’s HNA Open De France.
Tournament: HNA Open De France
Dates: June 28 – July 1, 2018
Where: Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, France
Title Sponsor: HNA
Course: Le Golf National (Albatros)
Distance: Par 72, 7,331 yards
Architect: Hubert Chesneau, Robert Von Hagge
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Winning Share: $1,041,000
Defending Champion: Tommy Fleetwood
Marquee Players: Fleetwood, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Alex Noren, Sergio Garica, Tyrrell Hatton, Rafael Cabrera Bello, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Haotong Li, Thomas Pieters, Alexander Levy, Thorbjorn Olesen, Graeme McDowell, Matt Wallace, Lee Westwood, Eddie Pepperell, Andrew Johnston, Martin Kaymer
TV AND ONLINE
Round 1: Thu 4:30 am – 12:30 pm (GOLF)
Round 2: Fri 4:30 am – 12:30 pm (GOLF)
Round 3: Sat 7:30 am – 12:30 pm (GOLF)
Round 4: Sun 7:30 am – 12:30 pm (GOLF)
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The Open De France debuted in 1906 and is the oldest national open in Continental Europe. Frenchman Arnaud Massy was the tournament’s inaugural champion, winning its first two editions (1906-07), and a third in 1911.
Massy won a fourth French Open in 1925 at age 48, after having put his golf career on hold while serving in the French Army during World War I.
The Open De France became one one of the European Tour’s founding 20 tournaments during its maiden 1972 season with American Barry Jaeckel defeating Clive Clark in a playoff.
Originally hosted at La Boulie for its first seven editions, the tournament has been contested across the country over the years, but since 1991, Le Golf National has acted as its permanent venue. It’s the only European Tour event contested in France.
While the Open De France has always been one of the more prestigious events on the European Tour schedule, it was taken to another level when it became part of the seven-event Rolex Series, offering a purse of $7,000,000.
Legendary golfers to win the national open include Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson, Henry Cotton, Peter Oosterhuis, Roberto De Vicenzo, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman, and Bernhard Langer.
Aubrey Boomer owns the most French Open titles with five, capturing them between 1921-1931.
HISTORY: TOURNAMENT NAMES
2016-18: HNA Open de France
2010-15: Alstom Open de France
2006-09: Open de France Alstom
2003-05: Open de France
1999-02: Novotel Perrier Open de France
1984-98: Peugeot Open de France
1980-83: Paco Rabanne Open de France
1971-79: French Open
1906-70: Open de France
HISTORY: RECENT WINNERS
2017: Tommy Fleetwood (-12)
2016: Thongchai Jaidee (-11)
2015: Bernd Wiesberger (-13)
2014: Graeme McDowell (-5)
2013: Graeme McDowell (-9)
2012: Marcel Siem (-8)
2011: Thomas Levet (-7)
HISTORY: TOURNAMENT RECORDS
5 – Aubrey Boomer (1921, 1922, 1926, 1929, 1931)
4 – Arnaud Massy (1906, 1907, 1911, 1925)
4 – Seve Ballesteros (1977, 1982, 1985, 1986)
3 – Nick Faldo (1983, 1988, 1989)
3 – Roberto De Vicenzo (1950, 1960, 1964)
3 – Marcel Dallemagne (1936, 1937, 1938)
3 – Flory Van Donck (1954, 1957, 1958)
263 (−21) – Seve Ballesteros (1985)
Englishman Tommy Fleetwood shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 in the final round to capture his second title of the season at the HNA Open de France.
“Winning, it’s the best feeling by far in golf and to do it on this golf course in this event, a Rolex Series event, just massive, massive bonuses,” said Fleetwood.
“It’s just been a great week from start to finish. Coming off the back of good golf, US Open and BMW in Germany, felt like I’ve been swinging it well. So it’s good to put it into practice and I’ve just kept up good form.”
At 12-under par for the tournament, Fleetwood edged American Peter Uihlein by a single shot.
FINAL TOP 5
1. Tommy Fleetwood -12 (67-68-71-66)
2. Peter Uihlein -11 (67-67-71-68)
3. Thorbjorn Olesen -8 (69-69-73-65)
3. Mike Lorenzo-Vera -8 (71-69-70-66)
3. Alexander Bjork -8 (66-69-70-71)
THE FIELD: ANALYSIS
The field in Paris is headlined by five players ranked in the world top 20, including three top-10 stars.
Leading the way is world No. 2 Justin Thomas, who is coming off a T56 at the Travelers Championship – his first finish outside the top 25. Thomas will attempt a reset in what will be his first European Tour start since an appearance at the Alfred Dunhills Links Championship in 2013 when he was fresh out of school and held a world ranking of 1025.
As the highest ranked player in the field, the reigning PGA Champion is the favorite of bookmakers, but his game has been a bit shaky as of late. In his six starts since a sizzling three-start stretch in March where he finished 1st, 2nd, and 4th, Thomas has posted just a single top 10. In particular, his two most recent finishes (T56, T25) have been his worst.
Still, in the big picture, Thomas is in the midst of another strong season, and it should surprise no one if he’s holding the trophy come Sunday night.
At No. 5 in the World Rankings, Jon Rahm is the second highest ranked player in the field, and the Spaniard will be making his first start since a missed-cut at the U.S. Open.
Not including co-sanctioned majors and WGCs, the 23-year old superstar owns three European Tour victories in just six starts, including a Rolex Series event (Irish Open), a hometown title (Open de Espana) and the season-ending DP World Tour Championship. He also has a pair of PGA Tour titles too.
Prior to his MC at Shinnecock Hills, Rahm had posted three top 5s in four starts, including the aforementioned win at his hometown event in Spain.
The third top-10 player in the field is the defending champion Tommy Fleetwood, who checks in right on the number at 10th. Like Thomas, Fleetwood enters off a shaky performance – his a T59 at the BMW International.
Prior to that dud, though, the 27-year old Englishman had bookended a T2 at the U.S. Open and a T7 at the PLAYERS between two top 25s at the elite Rolex events (Italian Open and BMW PGA Championship).
In the two majors thus far, Fleetwood owns a top 20 (T17, Masters) and runner up (2nd, US Open), including a record-setting 63 on Sunday. Overall, on the season, Fleetwood has recorded a win (Abu Dhabi) and nine additional top 20s, including six top 10s.
Already a proven winner here, Fleetwood would be the natural favorite among the top-ranked trio.
Alex Noren is ranked No. 16 and the Swede enters off four-straight top 25s, highlighted by a T3 at the BMW PGA Championship. Noren is in the midst of another impressive season, albeit winless, and would seem to be a lock for the European Tour Ryder Cup team. He owns four top-3 finishes, including a runner-up (playoff loss) to Jason Day at the Farmers.
The 36-year old former Oklahoma State star has posted two top 10s in his two most recent starts in France (T10, T8).
Finally, the fourth top-ranked headliner, No. 19 Sergio Garcia, has fallen on hard times since the infamous debacle at Augusta National.
Remember, Garcia had entered the Masters off three-straight top 10s (T7, 4th, T9), and was a top 10 lock, but after beginning with that debacle, and prior to last week’s BMW International Open, Garcia had missed four cuts in five starts, with his only money finish being a T70 at the PLAYERS. But thanks to a final-round 68, Garcia posted a T12 last week in Germany. It was his best finish since those aforementioned three-consecutive top 10s in March.
Did that final round and respectable finish get Sergio back on track? A strong performance in France will go a long way in judging if the famously streaky player has busted his slump.
Three more players are ranked inside the top 30, including No. 23 Tyrrell Hatton, who enters off an impressive T6 at Shinnecock. But prior to that Hatton had posted six-straight duds, including four CUTS (MC, MC, MC, T42, MC, T44). The 26-year old hot head missed the cut last year in France.
A third Spaniard in the top tier is Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who enters off a solid T36 at the U.S. Open, and before that two-straight top 10s in the two Rolex events (Italian Open 4th, BMW PGA T8), which followed a top 20 finish (T17) at TPC Sawgrass.
The last of the top-30 ranked players in Paris is Ian Poulter who was last heard calling the USGA’s Mike Davis a “bozo” after Saturday’s debacle at Shinnecock. The Twitter outburst aside, Poulter is playing extremely well, and enters Le Golf National with seven top-25 finishes in his last eight starts, including four top 10s, highlighted by a win in Houston.
THE FIELD: ODDS & RANKINGS
The European Tour heads to Ireland for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted By The Rory Foundation, the second of its three-straight Rolex Series events leading in to the season’s third major: the 147th Open at Carnoustie.
Credits: European Tour Media, Getty Images