Alstom Open de France preview

The European Tour travels across the channel this week for the Alstom Open de France at Le Golf National, outside Paris. Thomas Levet is defending champion and a strong field has assembled to battle for a sizeable prize-fund.

Thomas Levet defends Open de France (Getty Images)

Lowdown: The European Tour travels across the channel this week for the Alstom Open de France at Le Golf National, outside Paris. Thomas Levet is defending champion and a strong field has assembled to battle for a sizeable prize-fund.

The French Open is the oldest national open on continental Europe. It was first contested at La Boulie in 1906 and was won by home player Arnaud Massy. He took his national title three more times, lastly in 1925 when he was 48-years-old.

The French Open has been a fixture on the European Tour schedule since 1972. It's one of the most prestigious events on the circuit and has been won by Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman and Colin Montgomerie amongst others.

Last year, Thomas Levet delighted home fans by making a par four on the treacherous home hole at Le Golf National to edge Thorbjorn Olesen and Mark Foster by a single shot. The 18th had its revenge on the Frenchman though. He jumped into the water beside the green in celebration of his victory, only to land heavily and break his leg.

Levet has now recovered from that injury and will return to the scene of last year's glory carrying great memories.

"I compare that day to riding the Tour de France," he said. "To win our national open is very special and particularly there, as I used to play golf 10 minutes from Le Golf National and lived just 15 minutes away."

Le Golf National was designed on flat farmland near the Palace of Versailles. The layout is the work of architect Hubert Chesneau and construction began in 1987. In 1990 the course was open for play. This will be the 20th time the course has been used as the venue for the Open de France.

It will also be the venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup and a number of Ryder Cup stars will tee it up this week. Lee Westwood is in the field, so too are Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell and Ian Poulter. With a cheque for over €500,000 going to the winner, this is one of the richest events on the European Tour circuit and there are significant Ryder Cup and World Ranking points up for grabs.

Venue: Le Golf National, Paris, France Date: Jul 5-8 Course stats: par 71, 7,347 yards Purse: €3,150,000 Winner: €525,000 Defending Champion: Thomas Levet (-7)

TV Coverage: Thursday 5 - Live on Sky Sports 1 from 9.30am Friday 6 - Live on Sky Sports 1 from 9.30am Saturday 7 - Live on Sky Sports 2 from 1pm Sunday 8 - Live on Sky Sports 2 from 12pm

Player Watch:   Mark Foster - The Englishman was runner-up in this event last year and comes into this year's tournament on fine form: He was fifth in last week's Irish Open. He's a steady player who finds a high % of greens in regulation. Only 14 men have found more on the 2012 European Tour.

Martin Kaymer - The German hasn't had a great season to this point. He was, however, 15th in the US Open and showed signs there of a return to form. Not only is he a past winner of this event, (back in 2009,) he was also fourth in last year's tournament and finished sixth in 2010.

Lee Westwood - He continues to be one of, if not the most consistent golfers in the world. He won the Nordea Masters before finishing 10th in the US Open. He'll be looking for a win here as perfect preparation towards the Open Championship.

Key hole: 18th. A 470 yard par 4 with water all down the left side for the tee shot. The approach must carry all the way to the putting surface over water. Anyone requiring par to win upon reaching this hole will have their work cut out.

Where next? PGA Tour - Greenbrier Classic preview

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?