Open de France: Nicolas Colsaerts ends seven-year European Tour drought

Nicolas Colsaerts
Nicolas Colsaerts

A review of the action at the Amundi Open de France.

Leaderboard

-12 Colsaerts

-11 Hansen

-10 Coetzee

-9 Kitayama

-8 Moynihan, Kaymer, Ramsay


Day four report

Former Ryder Cup star Nicolas Colsaerts ended a seven-year winless run on the European Tour with a dramatic one-shot victory at the Amundi Open de France on Sunday.

The Belgian had last triumphed at the 2012 Volvo World Match Play Championship, four months before he was part of the European team that famously came back from 10-4 down to lift the Ryder Cup in the Miracle at Medinah.

His stock had fallen so far in the intervening years that he arrived at Le Golf National - the scene of another European Ryder Cup victory in 2018 - battling to keep his place on tour for 2020 after just one top-10 finish on the 2019 Race to Dubai.

He carded a closing one-over-par 72 on day four in Paris but that was enough to move him to 12 under and hold off the challenge of Dane Joachim B Hansen.

He started the day with a three-shot lead over South African George Coetzee and looked to be cruising to victory when he extended that to five after a birdie on the first.

But the demons that have led to him fighting for his playing privileges resurfaced and missed putts from inside 10 feet on the fifth, sixth and 12th meant he trailed Coetzee by two with six to play.

A spectacular chip-in eagle on the 14th had him back in the lead, but he would find the water on the next to surrender a double-bogey and slip a shot behind Hansen.

There was to be more drama, however, as Hansen took four putts from just short of the green on the 17th for a double of his own and Colsaerts held his nerve over the last three holes for a third European Tour victory.

"It's super special," he told europeantour.com. "I've been coming here for so long and missed out a bunch of times and to do it here, to do this like this where at the end it was a pretty dramatic, makes it even better.

"I was kind of looking for a week like this where everything sort of clicked together. I don't really have a week like that for a long, long time.

"It changes everything for me for the next couple of years, a lighter schedule. I have a wife at home and a little kid now that I am going to be able to spend a bit more time with now, which is nice."

Hansen carded a closing 68 to finish a shot ahead of Coetzee and two clear of American Kurt Kitayama.

Ireland's Gavin Moynihan and Scot Richie Ramsay were in the group at eight under alongside two-time major champion Martin Kaymer.

Day three report

Nicolas Colsaerts opened up a three-shot lead heading into the final round of the Amundi Open de France as fellow Ryder Cup hero Jamie Donaldson roared into contention in Paris.

Belgian Colsaerts was a member of the European team that came back from 10-4 down to complete the Miracle at Medinah in 2012, while two years later Welshman Donaldson hit a towering iron into the 15th at Gleneagles to secure the point that ensured the trophy stayed on this side of the Atlantic.

Neither player has claimed a win since their starring roles at the biennial spectacular and both now find themselves needing strong finishes to the Race to Dubai season to keep their playing privileges for 2020.

Colsaerts' 67 on day three at Le Golf National moved him to 13 under and put him in pole position for a first victory in seven years, with South African George Coetzee his closest competition after a 70.

Donaldson - who was celebrating his 44th birthday in the French capital - was then at nine under alongside American Kurt Kitayama.

Colsaerts carded five birdies and a bogey as he turned a share of the overnight into a three-shot advantage, and he is keeping his focus purely on his game at Le Golf National.

"It would be amazing to win this thing but if I stay away from thinking that I think my chances will a lot higher than if I see this thing in front of me," he told europeantour.com.

"I'm on a mission, I have a lot to play for and it's not like actually winning this tournament is at the forefront of my mind, you still have to play shots."

A string of injury troubles - including an accident with a chainsaw in 2016 - have hampered Donaldson in the last five years but he is confident he still has the mentality that has brought him three European Tour victories.

"You don't really try to remember your birthday when you get to 40-plus but a memorable day on my birthday," he said after carding a 66 containing six birdies and a single dropped shot.

"I'll just keep playing the way I've been playing the last three days, which is being aggressive. I've got a gameplan but I need to be pushing on to try to win the tournament."

Ireland's Gavin Moynihan and Scot Richie Ramsay were at eight under alongside Dane Joachim B Hansen, who carded a 69 that included a quintuple-bogey nine after going in the water twice on the 13th.

Day two report

Nicolas Colsaerts strides into the lead at Le Golf National
Click here to read Ben Coley's take on Nicolas Colsaerts sharing the lead at Le Golf National

Former Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts is in contention for a first win since 2012 after claiming a share of the halfway lead in the Amundi Open de France.

Colsaerts added a second round of 66 to his opening 67 to finish on nine under par, a total matched late in the day by overnight joint-leader George Coetzee, the South African making six birdies in his last nine holes in a 68.

American Kurt Kitayama is a shot off the lead on eight under, with Scotland's Richie Ramsay a stroke further back following a second round of 69.

Colsaerts reached a career-high of 32nd in the world following his victory in the Volvo World Match Play Championship in 2012, a win which helped him earn a Ryder Cup wild card from Europe captain Jose Maria Olazabal.

The 36-year-old Belgian won just one of his four matches in the "Miracle at Medinah", but famously made eight birdies and an eagle in partnering Lee Westwood to a fourballs victory over Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker on the opening day.

Colsaerts has struggled to consistently reproduce such form and began the week 424th in the world and 114th on the Race to Dubai, with only the top 117 keeping their European Tour card for 2020 after next week's Portugal Masters.

"I think I just needed a reboot," said Colsaerts, who has played nine of the last 10 events.

"I felt like I was playing good enough throughout the year but I would always throw a pretty bad nine holes in here and there that would make me go backwards.

"Every time I got myself in position I went backwards, which leaves a bit of a sour taste. I've seen better days and I've been happier so I want to play well and get this over with and see you next year."

Kitayama has already won twice in his maiden European Tour campaign, although his third place in last week's Italian Open was his first top 10 since winning the Oman Open in March.

"When it's playing this tough, and you come out with a couple under, it feels really good," Kitayama said after a 68 compiled in cold and windy conditions which greeted the early starters.

"Coming into today, I was definitely thinking 'Oh, it's going to be really tough', but it was a lot of fun."

Ramsay's second round got off to a nightmare start with a double bogey on the opening hole, but the Scot battled back to record a 69 and maintain his current run of good form.

"I'm disappointed to finish with a bogey but overall really happy because it was a tough start," Ramsay said. "Really proud to bounce back well and obviously 69 is a good score considering the way I started."

Ireland's Gavin Moynihan is four shots off the lead after coming agonisingly close to winning a BMW i8 Roadster worth £130,000 for a hole-in-one on the 16th, his tee shot slamming straight into the side of the hole but bouncing out.

"Everyone on the tee was reminding me of the car," Moynihan said.

"I was happy with par, but I couldn't believe it stayed out. It went down and obviously had spin coming out of the hole and spun back to probably 12, 15 feet."

Day one report

George Coetzee and Ryan Fox sat at the top of a heavily congested leaderboard after day one of the Amundi Open de France.

Continental Europe's oldest national open has moved from its traditional summer spot in the schedule to the autumn and the softer conditions and lighter rough made scoring conditions favourable at the venue that was so formidable at last year's Ryder Cup.

There were 49 players under par at the end of round one and Coetzee and Fox led the way after carding rounds of 65 each containing a single bogey.

Scotland's Richie Ramsay was a shot off the lead at five under alongside local favourite Benjamin Hebert and American Kurt Kitayama.

South African Coetzee set the target in the morning and he reached seven under at one point before a bogey on the 17th dropped him back.

"It was almost perfect," he told europeantour.com. "I played really well. It's nice to be in the mix again. It's been kind of a hard, long year but it feels like the game is coming along nicely."

Fox's single blemish came on the 13th but he redeemed himself with a stunning tee-shot on the par three 16th to share the lead.

"I'm pretty happy," he said. "This is a golf course that can kick you pretty quickly. I played really solid today, holed some putts.

"I played those tough holes, that closing stretch, really well. I could have potentially grabbed a couple more on those last four, which is always a bonus, but very happy to walk away with a 65 around here."

Ramsay has already safely secured his playing privileges for next season after taking it right to the wire in 2018, and he enjoyed his opening 18 holes in the French capital.

"It's obviously a fantastic golf course," he said. "A little bit different this year. A bit colder, a bit softer, so the course is playing quite long.

"It's a joy to play a golf course like this because it just tests the whole part of your game and mentally, obviously there's a lot of water out there, so you have to be very committed to your shots."

One man who did not enjoy the day was 2012 champion Marcel Siem, who disqualified himself after a rules mix-up.

The German incorrectly believed preferred lies were in play and lifted, cleaned and replaced his ball five times on the fairway in his first round before discovering his error and walking off at the turn.

"I played the ball from the wrong place five times and conceded 10 penalty strokes," he wrote on Facebook. "That was a little too much for me and I disqualified myself."

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