Graeme McDowell (pictured by Getty Images) will go in search of a successful title defence for the first time in his illustrious career at this week’s Alstom Open de France, but a world-class field stands between the Irishman and a repeat triumph at Le Golf National.
The World Number 20 cruised to victory by four shots on the outskirts of Paris 12 months ago, but with his fellow Major Champion Martin Kaymer, rising star Victor Dubuisson and the current Race to Dubai leader Thomas Björn all amongst the protagonists, McDowell will be hard pushed to match the feats of Jean-François Remesy, the last player to mount a successful defence of the title in 2004-2005.
McDowell’s last competitive appearance was in the Irish Open, where he narrowly missed out on delivering what would have been an emotional home victory. But a tied sixth finish was McDowell’s best performance in a stroke play event this season, and boosted his hopes of a fourth successive Ryder Cup appearance in September.
Kaymer all but secured his place in Captain Paul McGinley’s team after his stunning US Open triumph, but the German – who took the Open de France title in 2009 after a play-off with Lee Westwood – will be keen to bounce back from a disappointing homecoming in last week’s BMW International Open, where he missed the cut.
Björn, who was recently sidelined for three weeks with neck and shoulder injuries, fared rather better on his return to duty in Germany, recording his sixth top ten finish of a superb season to extend his lead over Kaymer at the top of The Race to Dubai to €62,126.
But with a €3million prize fund available at the 98th edition of the Open de France, which was first played back in 1906, victory for Kaymer would see him usurp the Dane at the top of the standings.
• Should Graeme McDowell win for a second consecutive year, he would join Darren Clarke (1999-2000 English Open) as the only other player from Northern Ireland to successfully defend a European Tour title.
• All of McDowell’s nine European Tour victories have come in different countries. They are: Sweden, Italy, South Korea, Scotland, Wales, USA, Spain, Bulgaria and France.
Source: European Tour