The Open de France is the oldest golf tournament on continental Europe. The first edition of France’s national golf tournament took place way back in 1906 and in the time since then, the great and the good of European golf have competed at some of the best golf courses the country has to offer.
One of the founding tournaments of the European Tour in 1972, the Open de France has levels of prestige and a winner’s list to match its long history. It was also among the first Rolex Series events, although the stature of the tournament has ebbed and flowed over the past decade or so. Even so, past winners include the likes of Seve, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and, more recently, Martin Kaymer and Tommy Fleetwood. Not a bad roll of honour.
|2019||Le Golf National||Nicolas Colsaerts|
|2018||Le Golf National||Alex Noren|
|2017||Le Golf National||Tommy Fleetwood|
The 2020 tournament was cancelled.
2019: Nicolas Colsaerts
The Open de France had played a foundational role on the European Tour schedule in each of previous two seasons but the tournament felt very different in 2019. Not only was the 2018 Ryder Cup firmly in the past but the Open de France had dropped out of the Rolex Series. Even a low-key European Tour event is still a very big deal to the winner though, and so it was for Nicolas Colsaerts who scratched a seven year itch to finally return to the winner’s circle.
Although there was less money and fewer Race to Dubai points on the line, there was no let up in the final round drama in the 2019 Open de France. Colsaerts was a strong favourite to win at the start of play and even more so after extending his lead from three to five strokes but he was quickly reminded just how difficult it is to win on the European Tour. That five shot lead had somehow become a two shot deficit with George Coetzee charging through the field but soon it was Joachim B Hansen who held the lead, after both Coetzee and Colsaerts found the water on the 15th hole.
Colsaerts must have thought at this stage that he had blown his chances of a third European Tour win. However, he utilised his experience and a cool headedness that has not always been his trademark to drag himself to -12 and win by a solitary stroke.
2018: Alex Noren
Alex Noren is no stranger to dramatic finishes. The Swede won the 2017 BMW PGA Championship thanks to a stunning final round of -10, sitting on the clubhouse lead for what must have seemed an eternity before having the win confirmed. He didn’t require quite such a low round on the Sunday of the 2018 Open de France but Noren was forced into another nervy watch as he waited to see whether his score of -6 would be enough to see him take glory and the more than $1m that was on offer to the victor that year.
Noren didn’t look the most likely winner at Le Golf National almost until his victory was confirmed. He opened his tournament with unspectacular rounds of 73 and 72 and even an excellent round of 65 on Saturday only brought him into contention. Indeed, he may have been sat on the clubhouse lead but his score of -7 was behind Julian Suri who was still out on the golf course.
Just like the year before, an American challenger fell short in his quest to get the better of a European Ryder Cup player. Suri’s defeat was more dramatic than Peter Uihlein the previous year as he put his final drive in the water en route to a double bogey on his 72nd hole of the tournament to hand Noren the win. Noren was delighted to prove his qualities at Le Golf National just months before the 2018 Ryder Cup and finished ahead of the likes of Jon Rahm, Sergio Garcia and Justin Thomas, who were among a whole host of Ryder Cup hopefuls in the field.
2017: Tommy Fleetwood
The field for the 2017 Open de France was much stronger than recent years for two reasons. The first was that the historic tournament was the second on the brand new Rolex Series of events and thus carried a prize fund of $7 million. The second was that a number of players wanted a chance to learn the intricacies of Le Golf National before the 2018 Ryder Cup. Tommy Fleetwood was particularly keen to create some positive memories of the course having missed the cut on each of his previous starts at the Paris venue but he put that record right in stunning style.
At the start of the week Fleetwood had never completed a round at Le Golf National under par. He saw the week out with a faultless round of 66 which was enough for a total score of -12, one stroke better than his nearest competitor, Peter Uihlein. The significance of beating an American at the venue would not have been lost on Fleetwood nor on the European Ryder Cup captain, Thomas Bjorn.
Even shorn of the Ryder Cup context, this was a huge win for Fleetwood. Winning at this early stage of the Rolex Series, for the second time in the season and on the back of a top five in the US Open, confirmed the Englishman as worthy of his billing among the golfing elite and certainly one to watch.