Open de France: Alex Noren looks set for a big week, says The Punter

Alex Noren, The Punter's main pick in Paris

Steve takes a detailed look at this week's European Tour action, where veterans and outsiders can prosper. Read his preview here...

“I think Alex Noren is set for a very big week in Paris and having just failed to notch in his last two outings, I fancy he can make it third time lucky here.”


Tournament History
The Open de France is the oldest national open in Continental Europe and it's been in existence since 1906. This will be the 106th staging of the event.

Venue
Le Golf National, Paris

Course Details
Par 71 -7,347 yards
Stroke Index in 2012 - 73.15

Having only opened in 1990, Le Golf National has already established itself as a strong course and given it's a stadium style track with lots of viewing positions it will make for an excellent host venue of the 2018 Ryder Cup.

The course is fairly exposed with fairways of average width and bentgrass greens of average size, running at 11 on the stimpmeter. Water is in play on holes 1,2,13, 15, 16 and 18.

Useful Sites
Event Site

Course Site
Tee Times
Weather Forecast
Alternative Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky all four days, starting at 9.30am on Thursday

Last Five Winners
2012 - Marcel Siem - 8
2011 - Thomas Levet -7
2010 - Miguel Angel Jimenez -11 (playoff)
2009 - Martin Kaymer -13 (playoff)
2008 - Pablo Larrazabal -15

What will it take to win the Open de France?

The secret to success at Le Golf National is a tip-top short game. Neither length nor accuracy off the tee is particularly important but what you do after you've driven is. The last four winners have all ranked inside the top-12 for greens in regulation so you clearly have to have an accurate approach game but the most important stat is scrambling - seven of the last nine to top the scrambling stats at the event have finished inside the top-three and last year, four of the first six home ranked in the top-six for scrambling.

Is there an angle in?
There appears to be a bit of a link between Le Golf National and both the Twenty Ten Course in Wales and Bro Hoff Slot in Sweden. Plenty of players that had fared well at either or both tracks were in the mix last year and the winner, Marcel Siem, traded at very short odds in Wales a couple of years ago.

Given I highlighted a possible link between Bro Hoff Slot and Blackstone in Korea, when previewing the Swedish event, then a close inspection of form there may be a worthwhile exercise too.

Is there an identikit winner?

Continental Europeans have won the last five renewals but before that, a low ranking Englishman won six of the previous 14.

Outsiders have a great record so if you fancy someone at a triple-figure price, go for it, and if they're getting on a bit, don't let that put you off. When I went through the contenders with a round to go last year, I was struck by the number of veterans in the mix.

Recent winners, Thomas Levet, Miguel Angel Jimenez, John Bickerton and Jean-Francois Remesy (twice!) all had plenty of experience under their belts and I wouldn't be at all surprised if we didn't see another veteran winner this time around.

In-Play Tactics

In the early days at Le Golf National, few winners came from far off the pace but both Levet and Mig came from eight back at halfway recently and Francesco Molinari was only beaten by a stroke last year, having started out day four trailing by six.

There's lots of water in-play and the finish is very demanding. The par 5 14th is the players last genuine birdie opportunity, after that it's a case of hanging on and the chances of seeing some late drama are very high. When Mig won a three-man playoff three years ago, he did so having traded at 1.011/100 during regulation play before double-bogeying the final hole.

If you have a fancy holding the lead with three to play, laying some of your wager back would be the prudent play.

Market Leaders

Martin Kaymer has disposed Luke Donald at the head of the market but neither makes much appeal. Kaymer has a splendid record at the course but he hasn't been at his best in a while and until his latest effort, tied 8th at the US Open, the same could have been said of Donald.

Luke was really disappointing on day four at Merion and although he's had a break since, that bruising round could leave its mark and he doesn't have much experience of Le Golf National either - he finished 11th on his only start in 2010.

A lack of course knowledge would also puts me off third favourite, Matt Kuchar, who makes the first of no doubt many to come, American reconnaissance missions prior to the 2018 Ryder Cup.

There's been money for Ian Poulter, who plays the course well and the Italian pair Francesco Molinari and Mateo Manassero both also trade at less than 30.029/1 but I've looked a bit further down the list for my picks.

Selections
Having won at both the Twenty Ten Course and Bro Hoff Slot and having played Blackstone very well in the past, I fancy Alex Noren's game really ought to fit around Le Golf National. He has plenty of course experience now and his form figures are going in the right direction. They read MC-MC-MC-78-37-15.

He's finished inside the top-four in each of his last two outings, where he should arguably have done a fair bit better and where, importantly, he's ranked highly for putting and scrambling. I think Alex Noren is set for a very big week in Paris and having just failed to notch in his last two outings, I fancy he can make it third time lucky here.

Blackstone course winner, Bernd Wiesberger, looks to have drifted to a far more acceptable price this week and he's been backed at a juicy 44.043/1. I rate Wiesberger highly and made him around a 32.031/1 shot here so at over ten points higher, I felt I had to get him onside before the off.

Simon Khan has some course form to draw upon and as a veteran low-ranking Englishman at a big price, he fits the bill perfectly.

I came very close to a bumper payout two years ago on young Dane, Thorbjorn Olesen, when he finished second after I'd backed him at 220.0219/1, so I just wonder if his fellow countryman, and fellow promising youngster, Morten Orum Madsen, can go one better. I've backed him at a huge price, along with another star of the future, Max Kieffer.

English-born Irishman, Simon Thornton looks a huge price this week. Hitting greens with regularity and great scrambling are Simon's strongest attributes and he appears to like France. He finished second here on the Challenge Tour two years ago and two outings ago he won the Najeti Hotels et Golfs Open. An 18th placed finish at the Irish Open last week, where he ranked 2nd for scrambling, was no disgrace and he might just go well at a monster-price.

And finally, if last week's incredible performance in Ireland wasn't just a fluke, Jose Maria Olazabal could figure again this week. He has a fined record at Le Golf National and as already stated, this is somewhere that veterans can figure. Whether his old nerves are up to winning is highly debatable but it's perfectly possible that he can get in-the-mix again and trade at a short price.

Selections:
Alex Noren @ 40.039/1
Bernd Wiesberger @ 44.043/1
Simon Khan 200.0199/1 (Fixed Odds)
Morten Orum Madsen @ 300.0299/1
Max Kieffer @ 330.0329/1
Simon Thornton @ 360.0359/1
Jose Maria Olazabal @ 360.0359/1

I'll be back later today, or first thing tomorrow, with my preview for this week's PGA Tour event, the Greenbrier Classic.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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