Back Francesco Molinari E/W in Open De France
A good quality field, headed by major winners Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell has assembled in France this week, for this years renewal of the Alstom Open De France at the Le Golf National, Paris. With the exception of 1999 and 2001, this well established track has played host to this big money event since 1991, and this venue will also host the 2018 Ryder Cup. The 7,331 yard Par 71 stadium course is a terrific test of golf, especially the final four holes, where water features heavily on 15,16 and in particular the extremely difficult 470 yard Par 4 18th hole. Water lurks all the way down the left from the tee, and a long second shot to a green surrounded by water will certainly test the bottle of any potential winner. The course is exposed, quite undulating in parts, with firm greens, and places great emphasis on accuracy, especially from the tee. Previous winners here indicate this is very much a course for fairways and greens merchants, rather than the power hitters. A warm sunny start to the tournament, will give way to a cooler showery conditions for the final two days, with winds of 10-15mph.
We hit the crossbar again last week, with our nap Henrik Stenson just being touched off in a play off, but at least each way backers were rewarded again.
My main fancy this week is the ultra consistent Francesco Molinari, who ticks all the right boxes in the type of player who should do well at this type of test. The demanding track is tailor made for his laser straight driving, and pinpoint iron play, and he certainly comes here in decent form with a solid Tied 12th place in Cologne last week, where he led the driving accuracy stats. He has good course form around here, with runner up spots in both 2010 and 2012, so there is every chance the Italian is going to make it win number four on the European Tour.
I have to include Martin Kaymer in my staking plan, despite his surprising missed cut last week. I would not be unduly worried about last weeks blip. As I mentioned in my column last week, I just think the Gut Larchenhof track does not suit his game, particularly the greens, which he admitted he had never been able to read. I expect normal service to be resumed from the 2009 winner of this event, who also posted top six finishes here in both 2010 and 2011. The demanding course will be much more to the Germans liking, and the tough finishing stretch will hold no fears for the German, after already taming the likes of Sawgrass and Pinehurst No 2 this year!
My final fancy is the Dane Anders Hansen, who very much fits into the category of fairways and greens type of player who generally does well around this track. This three times Tour winner, was robbed of another win in Singapore in May, by a final hole pitching wedge hole out shot from the Chilean Felipe Aguilar-much to the disgust of this column! He played solidly in Germany last week with a Tied 22nd place finish, and more importantly has plenty of course and distance around here, with a Tied 3rd place finish in 2002, Tied 8th in 2005, 6th in 2006 and Tied 4th in 2009. The course obviously suits the eye of this accurate ball striker, and he represents good each way value this week.
Of the other notables defending champion Graeme McDowell has to be feared, but I am not convinced he is in top form at the moment, and he putted atrociously in the final round of the Irish Open. Of the strong home contingent, the in form Romain Wattel has very little course form, whilst the swashbuckling game of Victor Dubuisson may not be best suited to this course.