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Open de France preview

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This week the European Tour moves on to the 100th edition of the Open de France. With the Ryder Cup being held here in 2018, along with the added incentive of extra Ryder Cup points for the 2016 team on offer, this tournament has extra significance and a strong European field is in play headed up by World No.4 Rory McIlroy.

The Course:

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Held at Le Golf National’s Albatros course, a tough 7,247 yard par-71, the course record of 62 is held by Eduardo Romero (2005) and Martin Kaymer (2009); however, over the past year the course has undergone some renovations in order to get it ready for 2018.

Last 5 winners:

2015: Bernd Wiesberger -13 (DD – 4, DA – 43, GIR – 1, PA – 32)

2014: Graeme McDowell -5 (DD – 59, DA – 17, GIR – 22, PA – 7)

2013: Graeme McDowell -9 (DD – 41, DA – 15, GIR – 1, PA – 34)

2012: Marcel Siem -8 (DD – 5, DA – 2, GIR – 2, PA – 17)

2011: Thomas Levet -7 (DD – 28, DA – 35, GIR – 3, PA – 20)

With just one winning score in double figures under par in the last 5 years, this is not a birdie fest. A tough tournament where hitting greens is of primary importance with 4 of the last 5 winners finishing in the top 3 for greens in regulation.

The Strategy:

This looks like a relatively simple stars ($9k+) and scrubs ($7k and under) week to me with plenty of good options below Rory McIlroy. With the extra Ryder Cup points on offer, we could see the players who are on the fringes of contention for a place with extra incentive to hit the front.

The Core:

Martin Kaymer ($10,900) – If there’s one week to take Martin Kaymer, this is it. The ultimate course horse with the added incentive of gaining a march on Ryder Cup rivals, he’ll view this as a great opportunity. Having played the course nine times, Kaymer has seven top 15 finishes including a win in 2009, and was 4th here last year off the back of three consecutive MCs. This year, Kaymer comes in with good form having made his last eight cuts, with the three tournaments in Europe during this time resulting in three top 10 finishes. A proven winner, I’m happy to take him at a $2,500 discount to McIlroy despite the fact he’s likely to be highly owned.

Bernd Wiesberger ($9,900) – In the last five years, Wiesberger saw progressive form on the course culminating in a win by three shots. His record as a defending champion isn’t spectacular; however, with McIlory in the field and all the talk of the Ryder Cup, I expect the spotlight to be off the defending champion a little bit more than it usually would be. While he missed the cut at the US Open, his last three results on European soil read T7-T10-T15, with the T7 last week due to great ball striking with only winner Henrik Stenson hitting more greens over the four rounds. I fully expect Bernd to challenge for the title yet again.

Joost Luiten ($8,900) – While Luiten’s course form isn’t anything to write home about (a best of T18 on his last visit in 2014), his form this year is strong and deserving of some attention. It seems to me that it’s just a matter of time before a W is notched up as he continues to knock on the door. This year he has six top 10s in 13 tournaments, as well as three further top 20s. He comes into the tournament off a strong ball striking tournament last week in Germany where he was 3rd in GIR and just need his putter to heat up a little bit.

Nino Bertasio ($6,900) – Another week, another top 25 for Nino Bertasio, with five in his last six tournaments. He’s playing the best golf of his career and solid results are following, yet the price doesn’t seem to be going up. His upside may be limited to sneaking into the top 10, but at this price he looks a bargain yet again.

Mikko Korhonen ($6,800) – Much like Bertasio, Korhonen has quietly been putting together a very consistent season making seven of his last eight cuts, including five top 25s. His game suits the course with his ability to hit greens (30th in GIR this season) and having made the cut in both appearances here with solid efforts of T33-T26 when in worse form, I’m happy to take him in both GPP and cash at a very reasonable price.

The GPP Play:

Troy Merritt ($6,600) – To be honest, playing Troy Merritt this week is a bit of a gamble with no proof that he could suit the course; however, we have seen the odd American turn up here and play incredibly well (a great example being Brendan Steele) so it is possible. Merritt is basically feast or famine with nine MCs from 16 tournaments this year, but he has shown some upside on tougher courses this year with a 3rd place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a T11 at Riviera, and he also made the cut on his Masters debut earlier this season. Given his PGA Tour presence, I’m surprised that he’s at such a low price in a lower quality field than he will be used to.

Robert Karlsson ($6,500) – Robert Karlsson is a classy player, there’s no doubting that and with 11 European Tour wins there’s clear upside to the play at this price. Unlike Vijay Singh or Ernie Els’ Top 10s last week, which seemingly came out of nowhere, Robert has started to show some form with two solid performances in a row – a T12 at the Nordea Masters and a T28 last week in Germany. While he missed the cut at this tournament last year, it was off the back of three missed cuts. In 2014, coming off similar form to that he’s showing now, he finished 4th. At this price he could prove to be an absolute steal.

Michael Hoey ($6,000) – Regardless of form, Michael Hoey will always be cheap and low owned. He is the ultimate GPP play with about a 50:50 made cut ratio in his career; however, he has also thrown 5 wins into the mix in the past 7 years so we know he can cross the line. While he missed the cut last week, in the two weeks previous he had shown some good form with made cuts finishing 6th in GIR in both tournaments which will be important this week. Having played the tournament eight times, he will know the course and has made the cut in five of the last six years including two top 11 finishes. At the price, there is a potential huge upside at low ownership. A risk worth taking.

The World Ranking Play:

Rafa Cabrera Bello ($8,200) – Every week a player relatively high in the world rankings seems to be disrespected by the salaries. This week, RCB is ranked 15th in terms of salary, but at 31st in the world rankings is the 4th highest ranked player in the field. His form has tailed off slightly in the last few weeks; however, he has made his last four cuts including two top 25s and a T32 last time out at the US Open. Having finished 5th here last year (as well as making his last four cuts here), and missed only one of his last 18 cuts, RCB looks like a very solid cash option with some upside at a reasonable price.

The Fade:

Rory McIlroy ($13,400) – Rory is the class of this field, no doubt, but at a hefty price he has to produce a win to give any upside whatsoever. Of course, he could land that win with ease; however, while he has been playing fairly well, he only has one win in his 13 tournaments this year and that came at home at the Irish Open. He hasn’t played this course since 2010, and while he did finish 4th that year, a lot of players will know the course far better which may leave him at a disadvantage. At this price I’m happy to avoid.

Francesco Molinari ($10,400) – I fully expect Francesco to be highly owned this week, and at a high price with virtually no winning upside I’m happy to fade him. He’s coming off a top 10 at the Quicken Loans last week, and finished in the top 10 here last year; however, he had a very similar profile going into the BMW PGA where he has an equally good record and finished way down the field. With limited upside, and the potential for him to be very highly owned, I’m happy to leave him out of my line-ups this week.

The One to Note(!):

Andy Sullivan ($9,200) – This is a difficult one to judge. Sullivan’s form has been good with three consecutive top 25s including the U.S. Open, and he finished T6 here last year so there’s no doubt he can play the course. On the face of things, he looks like a good value play. A fade would not be to do with his golf game, however, but his personal life. This week, Andy Sullivan has been accused by his girlfriend on Twitter of cheating on her which leaves potential for his head to be somewhat off the golf course. We’ve previously seen Rory McIlroy use the golf course as a refuge from a break-up, however, in such a mental game we can have no idea how this impact Sullivan, so I’ll be off him this week.

The Bets:

Bernd Wiesberger @ 30/1 (General) 1pt e/w

Joost Luiten @ 35/1 (Boylesports) 1 pt e/w

Michael Hoey @ 300/1 (General) 0.5 pts e/w

Nino Bertasio Top 20 finish @ 6/1 (General) 2 pts

Mikko Korhonen Top 20 finish @ 6/1 (General) 2 pts