At first glance at the top of the betting for the Open de France you might think it was a regular tournament on the PGA Tour because the first and second favourites mainly ply their trade in the United States. Tommy Fleetwood is third in the betting behind Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm and his world ranking means he can play in any tournament in the world. Fleetwood is the defending champion and suited to this week’s host course and is a certainty to play in the Ryder Cup for the first time.
The countdown has begun for the Open Championship and after this week is all links golf. Le Golf National hosts the French Open and the 2018 Ryder Cup and that explains the quality of the field. The course puts a premium on accuracy over distance. There are many undulations and water hazards. The fairways are average in length and the rough can be penal. The two hardest holes are the 17th and 18th so there could be a swing of shots at the end of the tournament. Fleetwood has the game to handle the course this week and in the Ryder Cup in September.
However, another player is preferred who is one of just two players in the field above Fleetwood in the golf world rankings. Fleetwood is at number 10 in the standings, eight places below Thomas but just five below Rahm who ticks all the boxes for this week’s challenge in France and is the main tip to win the Open de France. The course may play differently during the Ryder Cup but winning experience will help Rahm when he faces the US team for Europe in three months.
This week’s event is part of the lucrative Rolex Series which means there is a huge prize fund and that could also contribute to the quality of the field. Golfers are basically self-employed professionals so they have to play in events at which they have reasonable expectations of winning the most amount of money. Any player that misses the cut receives no income but still has to meet the costs of competing. Thomas will be interested to play on the Ryder Cup course but the money helps.
The current US PGA champion is one of the hottest players on tour and he is destined to win more majors. One of his mates is Jordan Spieth who only requires the PGA Championship to complete the career Grand Slam. So the two friends have won the four championships that mean most as a team. Spieth looks favourite to win the lot first but Thomas can have a good week in France without winning. The trip is about playing the Ryder Cup course.
Rahm was the only player to win more than once in the Rolex Series last season. He won the Irish Open and DP World Tour Championship and came 10th in the Open de France. He had a bogey free final round and generally had a good week on the greens. He has also posted impressive stats for putting this season and a win at the Spanish Open means he is playing with confidence allied to course form. Fleetwood finished second in the US Open and is at the top of his game but he could be mentally drained.
If Rahm does not play at his best or struggles on the greens an alternative is a player who combines strong course form and excellent current form. Thorbjorn Olesen’s last round of a tournament was a 61 in the BMW International Open which wasn’t quite enough to win the event. He won the Italian Open earlier this month and had two top three finishes at le Golf National. Olesen has now won five European Tour events and all the credentials suggest he can win his sixth this week in France but may have to settle for a place behind Rahm.