Open de France Betting Tips: Six each-way plays for Le Golf National
This week the Open de France returns to the DP World Tour schedule for the first time since 2019, after the 2020 & 2021 editions were cancelled due to the covid-19 pandemic.
An event that is steeped in history, having been first staged at the start of the 20th century, in 1906. The 2018 Ryder Cup venue, Le Golf National’s Albatros Course will once again play host to the event, as it has done almost exclusively since 1991, excluding the 1999 & 2001 editions.
It is a course where stars past and present of the DPWT have tasted success, from Colin Montgomerie’s victory here in 2000, to Tommy Fleetwood in 2017. Whilst the reigning champion is Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts, who ran out a 1 stroke winner over Denmark’s J.B Hansen in 2019.
This excellent course is one of the most challenging the tour has to offer, regularly producing winning scores in single digits and hasn’t seen a winning score lower than -15 since 2000, winners averaging 9.5-under-par in the last ten renewals. With Retief Goosen’s -17 in 1997 still the record score at the course.
Originally opening for play in 1990 and having been renovated prior to that 2018 Ryder Cup, Le Golf National’s Albatros Course is a par 71, measuring 7247 yards. Made up of 11 par 4s, 4 par 3s and 3 par 5s.
This course is a U.S style stadium course meets a linksy course, not unlike many you’d find around the coast of the UK & Ireland. It’s exposed, with thick, gnarly rough awaiting the most wayward, tactically placed bunkers and plenty of water, not just aside the fairways but around the greens. That no more on show than during the tough start and end, where it is well in-play on holes 1, 2, 15, 16 & 18.
The greens are on the large side, firm and heavily undulating, with run-off areas aplenty and small pot bunkers proving particularly penal should you find them instead of the putting surfaces. With Le Golf National rating as one of the toughest on tour around the greens.
Quality ball-striking is a must, to not only take advantage of some of the kinder, birdie holes but also in giving you the best chance of handling the trickier par 4s, which includes the final two holes on the course.
The other key ingredient here has been experience, with seven of the last eight winners of the Open de France possessing at least a previous top 20 at the course, with Tommy Fleetwood the exception in 2017.
This need for a strong ball-striking game is reflected in the limited stats we have for the event.
Back in 2019, Nicolas Colsaerts produced a sublime ball-striking performance to overcome JB Hansen, ranking 3rd in GIR, 4th off-the-tee and 7th in approach. Whilst it was a similar story for Alex Noren when winning in 2018, ranking 6th for GIR, 8th off-the-tee and 9th in approach.
Though we don’t have strokes gained stats from 2017 and previous, that year’s champion, Tommy Fleetwood very much ticks the ball-striker box, as he was one of the best around then. This was somewhat shown by the more basic stats we have for that event, where he ranked 1st in GIR, whilst 3rd in driving accuracy and 24th in driving distance also shows a player who was driving it well.
2016’s winner, Thongchai Jaidee was a steady, accurate sort, with the type of short-game to handle the difficulty offered up around these greens, whilst in 2015 we once again see that high-class ball-striking prowess on show from Bernd Wiesberger, who ranked 1st in GIR, combining it with a power-packed driving game.
Though strong ball-striking has been key to winning here, by no means has it been the only way to contend. With the difficulty on and around the greens, it’s no surprise to find plenty of short-game specialists enjoy good performances at Le Golf National.
Both 3rd and 4th place finishers in 2019, George Coetzee and Kurt Kitayama scrambled excellently, ranking 5th and 3rd respectively, though did combine it with some quality in the long-game, particularly Kitayama, who ranked 7th in GIR and 7th off-the-tee.
2018 winner Alex Noren has an excellent short-game, whilst Julian Suri, who finished runner-up to Noren, combined excellence with his irons, where he ranked 2nd in approach and GIR, with quality around-the-greens, ranking 4th. A similar story for Russell Knox, who also finished 2nd, producing an excellent ball-striking performance, ranking 5th off-the-tee and 6th in approach, combining it with a quality scrambling display, ranking 2nd.
A stat he repeated from Tommy Fleetwood the year prior, who complimented his ball-striking performance with some impressive scrambling, ranking 2nd, whilst runner-up to Fleetwood, Peter Uihlein ranked 1st in scrambling, which was his standout statistic.
Though results would suggest the course may slightly favour bigger hitters, it’s not enough for me to go all-in on and I feel driving it well is more important than merely distance over accuracy. It’s also clear that quality iron play will be needed here, with neither winner where SG stats have been recorded ranking worse than 6th in approach and with the strain this place can put on the short-game, strength across the board tee-to-green should be hugely beneficial this week.
Key Stats: SG: Off-the-Tee, SG: Approach, Greens-in-Regulation, SG: Around-the-Greens
With the linksy, exposed nature of this course and the water in-play, there were many courses that I felt could correlate with Le Golf National. When looking at form-ties and the likes, these were the six that I found to possess the strongest/most interesting ties.
Abu Dhabi Championship @ Abu Dhabi Golf Club
When looking at exposed, links-like tests, events in the Middle East are usually a good way to go. Abu Dhabi Golf Club, which hosted the Abu Dhabi Championship until this year very much fits that description.
Pablo Larrazabal, Tommy Fleetwood and Martin Kaymer have all won both events, whilst there is an abundance of other form-ties on show, from the likes of Richard Sterne, who has finished runner-up at both, as well as other past champions in France: Bernd Wiesberger, Graeme McDowell and Marcel Siem, who all have top 5s in Abu Dhabi.
Wales Open @ Celtic Manor
Tough in every aspect and played on a similarly exposed course, the Wales Open at Celtic Manor can provide further clues.
Alex Noren, Thongchai Jaidee, Graeme McDowell and Miguel Angel Jimenez have all done the Wales/France double, whilst Richard Sterne is also a past winner in Wales. Peter Uihlein has finished runner-up at both courses, Tommy Fleetwood and Nicolas Colsaerts have top 5s in Wales, whilst Andy Sullivan and Soren Kjeldsen, who both have excellent records in France, have finished 3rd at Celtic Manor.
Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
The linksy nature of Le Golf National has enabled it to develop many strong form-ties to the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, which of course takes place at the three iconic links course in Scotland: St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns.
Martin Kaymer has won both events, whilst Richard Sterne makes a further appearance with another runner-up finish. Tommy Fleetwood has an excellent record in the Dunhill Links, with four top 5s, as Noren, Wiesberger and McDowell have each recorded at least one. Other players, such as Richie Ramsay, Matthew Southgate and Thorbjorn Olesen have strong form in both events.
BMW PGA Championship @ Wentworth
Wentworth may not be the exposed setup that Le Golf National is but matches up well in terms of the skillset required to contend and has developed strong form-ties with this course.
Alex Noren and Miguel Angel Jimenez have won both, whilst Francesco Molinari, who has thrice finished runner-up in France is a past champion at Wentworth. Chris Wood is another past champion there with a runner-up finish in France, with Thongchai Jaidee and Nicolas Colsaerts having finished 2nd and 3rd respectively at Wentworth.
Dubai Desert Classic @ Emirates Golf Club
Emirates Golf Club has more tree-lined holes than Le Golf National though is still pretty exposed in parts and requires strength across the board tee-to-green to contend, with water a heavy feature throughout.
The form-ties were as plentiful as anywhere else, with Jimenez a winner here. Rafa Cabrera Bello has a good record at Le Golf National and is a past champion in Dubai, whilst Richard Sterne once again ties the courses together with another runner-up finish. Noren has a runner-up finish there, Jaidee has finished 3rd, with Bernd Wiesberger and Marcel Siem possessing top 4s.
Cazoo Classic/ British Masters @ Hillside Golf Club
Finally I’m going to finish with Hillside, host of this year’s Cazoo Classic and the 2019 British Masters. This links course is very challenging and has developed interesting form-ties with Le Golf National despite only staging two DPWT events in recent years.
Both of those winners at Hillside, Richie Ramsay this year and Marcus Kinhult in 2019 have excellent records in France. Ramsay with two top 5s and Kinhult finishing 5th and 11th on just two visits, whilst Andy Sullivan has some strong form in France and finished top 10 at Hillside this year,
The weather doesn’t look set to be much of a factor this week. There’s little in the way of wind or rain in the current forecast, with the only sign of anything that could cause concern coming in the form of a stiffening breeze on Sunday.
Thomas Pieters is the highest ranked player in the field at #34 in the world, joined by Ryan Fox and Patrick Reed of players from inside the top 50.
Other notable names include last week’s Italian Open winner, Robert MacIntyre, who will be looking for a quick double, former #1 amateur, Japan’s Takumi Kanaya and Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts returns to defend the title he has now held for an unexpected three years.
Patrick Reed and Thomas Pieters share favouritism at 16/1, followed by last week’s Italian Open winner Robert MacIntyre and 3rd place finisher there, Victor Perez at 20s. Whilst all are entitled to go well, I found reason enough to avoid.
Reed’s only experience of the course came in the Ryder Cup in 2018 as he lost 2/3 matches, though did win his singles match, whilst MacIntyre hasn’t played here before.
Whereas though Pieters and Perez have that experience and have a top 20 here, Pieters has flattered to deceive a couple of times when in contention over recent months and Perez is coming in here off the back of a close call in Italy, so is entitled to be a little spent mentally.
Instead I start down at the 33/1 mark and with a player who ticks the box for the top quality past form here, Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen.
Open De France Tips
- Thorbjorn Olesen 35/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1.5 pts ew
- Mikko Korhonen 45/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1 pt ew
- Jorge Campillo 45/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1 pt ew
- Richie Ramsay 45/1 – 1/5 8 places (Boylesports) – 1 pt ew
- Romain Langasque 70/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1 pt ew
- Sami Valimaki 140/1 – 1/5 8 places (Bet365) – 1 pt ew
After a turbulent couple of years off the course for the talented Dane, the five-time DP World Tour winner returned to the winner’s circle this year at The Belfry in the British Masters to claim DPWT title #6.
He followed that victory with a loss of form over his next five starts but has left that well behind him and has looked in much better shape over the last two and a bit months. Where he’s missed just one cut in seven starts, recording four top 25s, the best of them an 8th in the Irish Open and most recently finished 16th in the Italian Open last week.
The putter has been the primary reason for this return to form, with Olesen gaining strokes on the greens in his seven most recent starts and ranks 11th on the DPWT this season. That being said, every area is showing positive signs.
He’s gained strokes in four of his last seven starts in approach, including the last three on the bounce, resulting in him ranking 44th for the season. In addition to this he’s been solid around-the-greens and whilst driver would still look his biggest weakness, he’s making improvements there too, starting to find more accuracy and not losing as many strokes as he was earlier in the year. Further improvements of which should see him go close this week.
Indeed he’s shown he has what it takes to go close here before, as despite recording more than his fair share of MCs at Le Golf National, Olesen has also recorded finishes of 2nd and 3rd. Whilst we can find further evidence for his suitability to this test with his victory in the Dunhill Links, a 2nd place finish in Abu Dhabi and a 3rd in Dubai.
Olesen ticked many boxes here for me this week. He’s in great form, with every area of his game showing life and has had some excellent results here. I’m expecting him to put that top-class experience to good use this week and pick up DPWT title #7 in the process.
Finland’s Mikko Korhonen has been one of the most consistent players on tour over recent years. Showing good form of late, with all the required areas of his game looking in good condition, he can get the rewards for his consistent run of golf this week in France.
Following a run of three missed cuts earlier in the year, Korhonen has missed just one cut over his next fourteen starts, that coming two weeks ago in the unusual atmosphere at Wentworth. Of those fourteen made cuts he’s finished in the top 15 six times, with a best of 8th in the British Masters and the most recent of them coming last week in Italy, finishing 11th.
Korhonen is showing quality across the board, shown by a ranking of 10th tee-to-green this season, though it’s with the irons that he excels most, ranking 15th in approach and 17th in GIR, somewhat arresting a mini slide in this regard in Italy.
The putter has often been an asset throughout his career though is a little more inconsistent this year, however he has produced plenty of quality performances recently, gaining strokes in three of his last five starts.
This all-round quality has not quite translated to an overly strong performance at Le Golf National yet, though he has been solid enough, with finishes of 26th, 33rd and 38th along with two missed cuts in five tries. I am encouraged by his record in Wales, where he’s finished 3rd and 8th, whilst he also possesses some solid efforts in Abu Dhabi.
The steady Finn is a two-time DPWT winner and if back to his best with the irons and putter, complimenting them with solidity he shows off-the-tee and around-the-greens, he can get the better of Le Golf National this week.
Jorge Campillo has been bubbling away nicely all year and finally starting to turn some solid performances into excellent ones, hitting the top 10 three times in eight starts and missing just one cut in that time. Add into that a strong record here in the Open de France and this looks like the ideal opportunity for the Spaniard to turn those performances into a victory this week.
We last saw Campillo in Italy, finishing 9th thanks to a quality weekend’s golf where he was the 3rd best player in the field across the 3rd and 4th rounds, with every part of his game showing improvement over Saturday and Sunday. Whilst two starts prior to that he produced his best finish of the year, when 4th in the Omega European Masters.
These finishes, as well as much of his form for the rest of this year has been engineered by all-round quality, though whilst good performances in his long-game are sporadic, coming and going from event to event, excellence in the short-game has been constant, particularly around-the-greens where Campillo ranks 22nd on tour this season, gaining strokes in 11 of his last 12 starts.
Having said that, two starts ago at the BMW PGA, where he finished 32nd, he produced his second-best approach performance of the year, whilst there have too been positive signs with the driver, gaining strokes both last week and in Wales four starts ago. Even when he’s losing strokes, it’s only minimal, meaning the rest of his game can compensate.
After missing the cut here on his first start in 2012, Campillo has gone on to amass a strong record at Le Golf National, teeing it up a further six times, missing just two cuts, with three finishes in the top 20, the best of which is an 8th on his most recent visit in 2018, a week where he drove it well but more impressively, led the field on the greens, gaining almost a shot more than anyone else per round.
Campillo is not just an experienced two-time DPWT winner but more importantly, has that necessary quality experience at Le Golf National and can capitalise on his best run of form since 2020 to improve further on his previous efforts here this week.
Scotland’s Richie Ramsay secured a return to the winner’s circle for the first time since 2015 five starts ago at Hillside in the Cazoo Classic and with his T2G game looking in good shape two weeks ago at Wentworth, he can add to the pair of top 5s he already possesses here at Le Golf National.
Ramsay’s win at Hillside was no bolt out of the blue, as he threatened a couple of months earlier at The Belfry in the British Masters, inexplicably finding the water on the 18th hole to deny him the chance of a playoff with eventual winner there, Thorbjorn Olesen. This perhaps making his win six starts later all the more impressive, as he had to battle with a bunch of players on a tightly contested leaderboard, eventually winning by a stroke over Paul Waring, proving to himself he still had what it takes in the heat of battle on a Sunday.
Ramsay’s form has been neither here nor there since his win, with a missed cut on his next start in the Hero Open followed by finishes of 44th, 41st and 57th. Nothing has been too amiss, he’s still driving it excellently, an area of his game where he excels more than any other, ranking 23rd, whilst at Wentworth he produced his best approach performance of the year. His usually trusty putter has gone off the boil a little but such is his quality there, I’m confident he’ll find it again sooner rather than later.
In addition to this, Ramsay finds more greens than most on tour, ranking 4th and 6th in scrambling shows a player who has the complete profile to handle the challenges that Le Golf National throws up.
This has been well on show on a number of occasions here in the past, where Ramsay combats plenty of MCs with two excellent 5th place finishes, the first of them coming in 2011 and the latest in 2019. In addition to this he has some rather compelling correlating form, that win at Hillside the best of them, along with a 2nd in the Dunhill Links and top 6s in the BMW PGA Championship and Dubai Desert Classic.
Scottish golf is in an excellent place right now with the successes of Ewen Ferguson this year, added to by MacIntyre’s win last week and I think Ramsay has the experience required here to add further to that this week in France.
Romain Langasque’s form has dipped of late, though he has arrested the slide on his latest two starts, a 57th place finish in the BMW PGA Championship and a 41st in Italy. I’m hoping a return home will bring about a little more improvement in the talented Frenchman to get him back into contention this week.
Following a 14th place finish at the Hero Open five starts ago, Langasque missed his next two cuts but bounced back somewhat on those aforementioned most recent starts. Though the finishes may look underwhelming, he started well in both, opening with rounds of 69 in each and there have been enough positive signs across his game that give the impression he’s not been as far away as the finishes suggest, even across his two missed cuts.
In both of those starts he drove the ball well, an area where he’s been solid all year, ranking 45th. Though it’s around-the-greens where he’s at his best, shown not only by his ranking there of 29th this season but last week he produced his 2nd best performance around-the-greens of the season.
The putter has been a little up and down this year, however he produced a superb field-leading performance at Wentworth on the greens two starts ago, not just his best putting performance of the year but his best since the 2019 Scottish Open.
The irons, which looked good earlier in the year have been the undoubted issue, with little to shout about over his last 12 rounds and I’m hoping this return home, at a course he has gone well at will bring about the improvements needed to contend.
Langasque made his debut here in 2016, finishing 33rd and has recorded finishes of 50-MC-18 on his next three visits, meaning he ticks that previous top 20 box. He is also a past champion in Wales, picking up his first DPWT title there in 2020 and he’s just a player who excels on these types of exposed, linksy courses, doing so since his amateur days where he won the Amateur Championship in 2015.
Go back a handful of starts and you’d have jumped at the chance to back Langasque at 80/1 in this event. Though his iron play is an issue, the rest of his game is looking in fine shape and with some past strong form at this suitable setup, he is more than capable of winning his home championship this week.
Sami Valimaki has proven himself to be a player who excels on these exposed courses since a breakthrough win in Oman in 2020 and though this is his first go at Le Golf National, he can take to it at the first time of asking this week.
Though missing his latest two cuts following a six-week break, there have been plenty of positive signs in Valimaki’s game. His short-game was on fire at Wentworth, though he suffered with a bit of rust in the long-game, whilst in Italy last week, he followed an opening round of 76 with a 69 to miss the cut by two, showing improvements in every area of his game during the second round and my hope is that performance signalled a blowing away of the cobwebs now after that long break.
Before that, Valimaki had been in fine form, recording a finish of 4th in the BMW International Open, 30th in the Irish Open, 24th in the Scottish Open and 16th in the Cazoo Classic in his four latest starts. Where each and every aspect of his game looked in good condition, as he gained strokes in each start on and around the greens, in 3/4 in approach and in 2/4 off-the-tee.
If that second round in Italy last week, where he did something similar, gaining strokes in all areas barring around-the-greens, where his losses were only minor, he can tackle Le Golf National well on his first try.
I have added confidence as to his chances based on an excellent record in Wales, where he’s finished 2nd and 6th. In addition to this is a strong performance at Wentworth, finishing 13th, whilst that 16th at Hillside in the Cazoo Classic three starts ago offers plenty of encouragement, as he entered the final round there well in contention. Not forgetting that breakthrough victory in Oman in 2020, on a similarly exposed setup.
It’s an obvious concern that Valimaki hasn’t played here before with the number of winners that have required a previous visit but he looks well suited to the test and if able to build on his second round performance in Italy, this talented Finn can handle Le Golf National well on his first try.