Fleetwood seeks French double
Le Golf National will become the centre of the sporting world in September when the Ryder Cup rolls into Paris, so it is no surprise to see a world-class field assemble for a sneak peek at the Open de France this weekend.
Seven major winners, including the current world number two, will line up for one of the European Tour’s big events of the season, where Tommy Fleetwood hopes to defend his title.
The event is a key part in the build-up to The 147th Open and it is an exciting week of golf across the world, with Tiger Woods back in action on the PGA Tour at The National.
Here’s what to look out for this weekend.
Fleetwood eyes title defence
Following that eye-catching, record-equalling 63 in the final round of the US Open, Tommy Fleetwood is approaching The Open Championship in the form of his life.
But before he heads to Carnoustie, where he holds the course record, Fleetwood must first attempt to defend his title at the Open de France on the European Tour.
It is an eyebrow-raising field set to compete in the third Rolex Series event of the season, with seven major winners heading to the outskirts of Paris – including Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Danny Willett.
There will also be plenty of home support for the likes of Alex Levy, Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Grégory Bourdy as Le Golf National gets a taste of what is come ahead of the Ryder Cup later this year.
But they all have their work cut out to stop Fleetwood, who is chasing a fifth European Tour win. On current form, you would not expect anything less to be satisfactory.
Thomas set to light up European Tour
Fleetwood lands in Paris as the man to beat but another early favourite for victory this week is Justin Thomas.
The American will arrive at Carnoustie next month as undoubtedly one of the favourites to lift the Claret Jug and become Champion Golfer of the Year.
He has enjoyed a stellar 12 months, with his first major at the PGA Championship secured last August and a spell as world number one – but victory at the Angus links would be his greatest achievement yet.
To get a flavour of European conditions and to sample the location of the Ryder Cup, Thomas has flown into Paris and heads a stellar field.
“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to go and play in a European Tour event,” he said.
“It is something I haven’t done since my first start as a pro when I went to play the Dunhill Links.
“I’m not sure what to expect, having never played a Rolex Series event.
“I know they’re fairly new to the European Tour, so it will be really fun to be a part of it. I’m sure the field is going to be tremendous, especially being a Ryder Cup venue. It will have a lot of talent.”
Woods has victory in sight
Across the pond on the PGA Tour, three-time Champion Golfer of the Year Tiger Woods gets his Carnoustie preparation underway at The National at TPC Potomac.
Woods has yet to win since returning to the tour from injury but this may be his only chance to get back into the winners’ circle ahead of The Open. He usually takes two weeks off prior to The Open to prepare.
With many of the game’s biggest names taking a week off, Rickie Fowler is the only player in the world’s top 10 set to feature – leaving much of the attention on Woods.
However, with the likes of Marc Leishman, Jimmy Walker and Kiradech Aphibarnrat in the field, this is far from easy.
Cink rolling back the years
It is nine years since Stewart Cink claimed victory in one of the most dramatic Open Championships of all time but the 45-year-old is not done at the top just yet.
Cink beat 59-year-old Tom Watson in a play-off at Turnberry, yet that looked like being his last professional win as he gradually slipped down the rankings.
But instead of becoming another old favourite, the former Champion Golfer still has ambitions of trophies and success with 2018 turning into a renaissance campaign.
Two straight top-five finishes, including a tied second at the Travelers Championship after a birdie blitz in the final round, have restored his confidence and injected some momentum.
He lines up again this weekend at The National, chasing a third straight impressive performance and, if all goes well, a first win in nine years.
For more information about The 147th Open including tickets visit: https://tickets.theopen.com/