The Punter's De-Brief: Colsaerts clings on after drama-filled French finale

Golfer Nicolas Colsaerts
A happy Nicolas Colsaerts with the Open de France trophy

Nicolas Colsaerts has won the Open de France and Justin Thomas the CJ Cup. Our man looks back on the two events here with his customary Monday piece...

“This course is an absolute gem and year after year we see all sorts of drama. It’s a great event to trade and as we witnessed yet again this year, holding on to a lead down the stretch is incredibly hard.”

The third-round leader, Nicolas Colsaerts, who was matched at a high of 180.0179/1 before the off, eventually won the Open de France at the spectacular Le Golf National by a solitary stroke but not before we witnessed plenty of drama and some huge market swings.

Colsaerts had begun the final round with a three-stroke lead, trading at around even money, but he soon shortened up after he'd birdied the first and his nearest challenger, George Coetzee, had made bogey at the opening hole. A dropped shot followed at the dangerous par three second hole for Colsaerts and the lead was back to four but after a lucky break on the par five third, when his second shot went through a tree before bouncing off a spectator to the fringe of the green, he was back on track with a birdie four.

The Belgian was matched at just 1.341/3 as it looked like he might just play stress-free golf with such a commanding lead but he played anything but. Back-to-back bogeys were made at five and six and after he'd bogeyed the par four 12th, his cause looked lost. Coetzee, who had trailed by five after the opening hole, made three birdies in-a-row from the ninth and after Colsaerts drop at 12, the South African was leading by two.

Coetzee then hit a gorgeous approach to the par four 13th, a hole he'd double-bogeyed on Saturday, and with the very real prospect of a three-stroke lead with five to play, he was matched at a low of just 1.330/100, but it wasn't to be. Colsaerts responded with a great approach of his own and he holed his birdie putt, seconds before Coetzee missed his. The lead then swapped on the very next hole when Coetzee could only make par and Colsaerts did this with his third on the par five 14th.

Le Golf National is a magnificent set-up. The final four holes are brutal and once again they provided plenty of drama. Just as it looked like Colsaerts might finally put the event to bed after he'd narrowly avoided water off the tee on 15 and Coetzee had found the middle of the lake, we were set for the next couple of twists in the tale...

Playing in the group ahead, Denmark's JB Hansen holed for birdie to get to within one and in no time at all he was trading at just 1.241/4. Coetzee found water again with his third shot at 15, and Colsaerts' second went long, left and wet. Coetzee made a seven and Colsaerts a six, after his fourth shot very nearly rolled into the lake, and Hansen strolled to the 17th tee with the lead but with the title at his mercy, he made a complete pig's ear of the hole, recording a double-bogey six!

Colsaerts held his nerve to par in for the title but I couldn't help but feel for Hansen. He threw it away at the penultimate hole and that was after making a quintuple bogey nine at the 13th on Saturday. He's yet to win on the European Tour and I doubt he'll ever play better golf in his life.

Having not won for seven years, Colsaerts was generally a 160.0159/1 chance before the off. This was his third victory in 389 starts on the European Tour.

Over on the PGA Tour, at the CJ Cup in Korea, pre-event favourite, Justin Thomas, reached 20-under-par to beat Danny Lee by two strokes, with the trio of Hideki Matsuyama, Gary Woodland and Cameron Smith a further three strokes back in a tie for third. The tournament was far less dramatic to that witnessed in Paris later on in the day but the victory wasn't as straightforward as the leaderboard suggests.

Danny Lee, who was matched at a high of 500.0499/1 before the off, was matched at a low of 2.01/1 when he led by a stroke after seven holes of round four but he finally succumbed to Thomas' brilliance when he made back-to-back bogeys at 15 and 16, after finding sand off the tee twice.

My Bets

As detailed in the In-Play Blog, I layed my stakes back on sole selection, Justin Thomas, in Korea at halfway but I needn't have bothered and I wasted a few pounds backing Cameron Smith, who I thought might challenge Thomas in round four, but my good mood following Thomas' success soon disappeared once the Open de France got underway.

With two pre-event picks, Kurt Kitayama and Jamie Donaldson, tied for third with a round to go, I was quite hopeful of adding to the profits already secured but incredibly, Kitayama made a quadruple bogey on the second hole while Donaldson went one worse with a quintuple bogey!

What Have We Learned This Week?

Sitting outside the top-110 on the Race to Dubai, Colsaerts began the week worrying whether he would keep his card this season and that's something to consider at this week's Portugal Masters too. The Belgian is far from the first to find plenty of improvement with his European Tour playing privileges on the line.

Those players bobbing around the 110 mark this week will be looking to do a Colsaerts and seal their playing rights so expect a few good performances from some out of form players. Only the top 110, not including those with affiliate membership, will keep their cards for next season.

As for the Open de France itself, although Colsaerts won from the front, having led by three with a round to go, he was just the third to do so in 11 years and I'd still look to take on the leaders. This course is an absolute gem and year after year we see all sorts of drama. It's a great event to trade and as we witnessed yet again this year, holding on to a lead down the stretch is incredibly hard.

I wrote about an old course correlation in the preview, between Le Golf National and Celtic Manor, and the link was boosted again. The last man to win the Wales Open, Joost Luiten, started too slowly to really threaten for the title but he would have finished tied for fifth, alongside Paul Krishnamurty's 66/1 each-way selection, Richie Ramsay, if he hadn't have double-bogeyed the 72nd hole and the winner, Colsaerts, had finished fourth behind Luiten in that final edition in Wales in 2014.

Jamie Donaldson - who has finished T5 and T6 at Le Golf National and would have been bang in contention yesterday but for his disastrous second hole - has also gone well at Celtic Manor, finishing alongside Colsaerts in fourth in 2014, and T8 in 2011. It's old form now but given vets have a decent record in Paris it's still relevant and Luiten - and to a slightly lesser extent, Donaldson - looks a really strong candidate if he's in any sort of form next year.

I'll be back tomorrow with this week's previews for the aforementioned Portugal Masters and a brand-new event in Japan on the PGA Tour - the ZOZO Championship.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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