High excitement this week for golf betting fans as we head to the HNA Open de France, hosted by September's Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National. As part of the European Tour's Rolex Series the event itself is prestigious, but a sub-plot will be who can impress captain Thomas Bjorn with their affinity for the layout. Here are three golfers to follow:
Conventional wisdom would tell you that the Englishman is worth watching this week and it's almost certainly not one to over-think. On the one hand, it's blindingly obvious that he remains outside the automatic selections for the European team so a strong performance on the host track is precisely the sort of opportunity which fans the roaring Ryder Cup fire in his belly.
On the other hand he plays the notoriously tricky layout very well indeed and that's not something that can be said of everyone in this field. In fact Poulter's record of playing Le Golf National 12 times and every single time making the weekend is frankly remarkable given what his peers have achieved.
In those 12 visits he has racked up nine top 30s, six of them top 20 and four top ten including a pair of thirds (in 2006 and 2009). To put this consistency into context, Tommy Fleetwood missed four cuts at the course ahead of his win last year, Matthew Fitzpatrick has made just one weekend in four tries, and Pablo Larrazabal won on debut in 2008 but it needed another seven visits before he finished top 30 when T16th last year. It's a testing spot and you have to respect Poulter's long term response to it.
Throw in his fine form and you have a solid proposition for the week. He made the quarter-final stage of the WGC Dell World Match Play in March and has followed it with seven top 25 finishes in his next eight starts, including victory in the Houston Open and a dalliance with US Open glory two weeks ago. He's 5/2 for a top ten finish with Unibet.
With the backdrop of the Palace of Versailles and a course that is made for the drama of high class matchplay golf, the only element currently missing from September's match is some involvement from a top Frenchman.
Or is it? Whisper it, but, zut alors, the truth is that they don't play the Albatross Course very well at all. The most popular possible inclusion is Alex Levy, whose ebullience is popular with galleries across the world. He's also a five-time winner on the European Tour, but in seven starts at the track he's yet to log a top 30.
What of the experienced Frenchmen? Well Gregory Bourdy has made just three top 20s in 14 appearances, Raphael Jacquelin three in 19 and Gregory Havret two in 17. The youngsters are little better. Mathieu Pavon has missed both cuts there, Romain Wattel six of nine, Julien Guerrier seven of nine and Ben Hebert five of six. Clement Sordet, Sebastian Gros and Romain Langasque lack one top 30 between them in six tries.
It leads you to wonder if there is not some potential for a coup in the Top Frenchman market. Unsurprisingly Mike Lorenzo Vera is highly regarded because the two times he made the weekend he finished T3rd (last year) and T6th (in 2015), but his other six visits all ended prematurely.
The bold play might be Adrien Saddier. In making three of four cuts the unheralded 26-year-old is something of a home soil outlier in playing more Parisian weekends than he misses. He's 30/1 at Bet365 which is worth an each way play (top three pay out).
In his Europeantour.com blog last year the Englishman wrote: "If I had to take a friend to play one course for a weekend it’d be Le Golf National. We’re lucky to play so many different courses – links, parkland courses, long ones and tight ones. I always enjoy playing in China and Morocco too, but the standout course is Le Golf National."
It's been a trappy season for the 29-year-old, who had to deal with a stress fracture of the foot having threatened to win the Oman Open in February, but he played nicely when T12th the Belgian Knockout, T27th in the BMW PGA Championship, a smart qualifier for the US Open at Walton Heath and was unlucky to miss the cut at Shinnecock Hills by only one shot.
He likes playing in front of big crowds, has shown a real fondness for the Rolex Series events over the last two and a half seasons, and since regaining his card at Q-School in late 2015 he has made 16 top 20s in 63 starts. Back in 2016 he was T11th at Le Golf National so there's more to it that just liking the track: he has played it well too. He's available at 9/1 with Betfair to make the top 20.
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