Graeme McDowell retained his Open de France title by a single shot on a dramatic Sunday afternoon at Le Golf National.
The Northern Irishman came into the final day eight shots behind overnight leader Kevin Stadler, but a four-under-par 67 gave McDowell his 10th European Tour victory.
Conditions were tough in Paris, but McDowell played incredibly well to successfully retain a European Tour title for the first time in his career, as European Tour revealed:
Here’s a look at the top 10 after a thrilling day in the French capital:
|Position||Player||To Par||Sunday's Round|
As we can see, McDowell was one of only five players in the top 10 to shoot below par on the final day at the Open de France, and he did so in style.
McDowell put together five birdies on Sunday, with a disappointing bogey on the 18th the only blemish on his card.
As brilliant as the 34-year-old was, his victory came courtesy of a meltdown from Stadler, who had a real day to forget.
Six bogeys and a double bogey saw the American shoot five over par, one shot shy of McDowell’s total on four under for the tournament.
It was all going wrong for Stadler coming into the back nine, but birdies on 14 and 16 put him back into contention for the title.
However, needing a birdie on the 18th for victory, Stadler three putted from 25 feet to hand McDowell the title, as European Tour reported:
It was one of those days when nothing went right for the American off the tee, hitting just six of 14 fairways according to European Tour’s statistics.
In blustery and dry conditions, McDowell used his links golf expertise to work his way round Le Golf National but said after his round that winning thanks to Stadler's failure was less than ideal—per European Tour:
I'm very surprised. I feel very fortunate. Kevin Stadler is a great, great player. I literally gave him that putt on the last green. I didn't expect him to miss that. It's not really the way you like to win. I was ready to go for the play-off, but I'll take it and run. I really needed this victory. It's a special one for me. It's pretty timely. There's a busy summer ahead and this a really good kick-start to the summer.
Take nothing away from McDowell, though, who was sensational all day and fully deserves the trophy.
With the Ryder Cup on the horizon, the Northern Irishman demonstrated exactly why he could be a useful captain’s pick should he fail to make the team on merit.
The way that he dug deep in tense moments is what makes him such a fierce competitor, and if he brings his Open de France form into the Open Championship in two weeks’ time, major victory no. 2 is a big possibility.
Day 3 Recap
American Kevin Stadler continued to be the dominant force at the 2014 Open de France. He finished +1 on a tense third day of action.
Stadler was again pushed by Frenchman and natural crowd favourite at the Le Golf National course, Victor Riu. But it was Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee who did himself the most favours on Day 3. He moved into second place after finishing two under par for the day.
However, despite the best efforts of both Jaidee and Riu, Stadler remains in firm control. Even though he was steady, rather than spectacular, as he had been on Day 2, Stadler managed to extend his lead:
That's a commanding advantage the rest of the chasing pack may find impossible to overcome in a single day's worth of play. Stadler is showing little evidence that a major collapse is imminent.
Today's showing was all about clutch golf from the 34-year-old. He simply made the shots he had to when it mattered most:
Kevin Stadler makes his first birdie of the day on the par-4 10th to once again take sole possession of the #FrenchOpen lead at -10.— Golf Central (@GolfCentral) July 5, 2014
Overall, Stadler remained efficient. He made par on 15 holes, as his daily scorecard reveals, per EuropeanTour.com. Stadler stuck to doing exactly what the course demanded of him, rarely exceeding or falling short of that requirement.
The only blips occurred at the third and 17th holes, where Stadler hit a bogey on both occasions.
Away from the top of the leaderboard, a grey and drizzly day was enlightened by a gutsy performance from Matteo Manassero. The 21-year-old Italian prodigy endured his share of struggles on Day 3, eventually finishing three shots over.
But he did provide a highlight when he completed a stylish Eagle at the 18th hole. His joy was captured on the Golf Central Twitter feed:
However, although youthful exuberance has taken Manassero to a European Tour victory in the past, it is Stadler's determined savvy that is leaving him trailing in Paris.
Here's how the full leaderboard looks after Day 3:
|Position||Player||To Par||Saturday's Round|
It's difficult to imagine Stalder surrendering his lead at this stage. His golf hasn't always been stylish during this Open, as today's two bogeys proved.
However, the veteran player has mastered the knack of making the key shots, as well as reaching par with tremendous consistency. That has given Stadler a lead to protect, and his efficient style is perfect for doing just that.
Day 2 Recap
Kevin Stadler took a three-shot lead at the top of the Open de France leaderboard on Friday, picking up from where he left off on Day 1 with another sublime performance.
The American shot a three-under-par 68 to reach the 10 under total, three clear of home favourite Victor Riu heading into the weekend, as Golf Central revealed:
Though the conditions were tough on Day 2, the scoring didn’t suggest as much, as the leaderboard below shows:
|Position||Player||To Par||Friday's Round|
Being away from the USA on Independence Day would have been a little strange for Stadler, but he appeared right at home in Paris on Friday.
However, his 68 could have been a lot better but for a disastrous finish at Le Golf National, carding an ugly double bogey on his last hole, the ninth—as European Tour revealed:
Sitting on 12 under par after back-to-back birdies on holes six and seven, Stadler shanked his approach into the 18th green to mark only the second blemish on his card all week.
After his round, the 34-year-old reflected on his costly error but said that it was a good day for him overall—per European Tour:
I just tried to get a little too much out of it. I didn't have the best of lies and had to hit the shot perfectly. I got a little too steep on it and it came off the hosel and into the deep stuff. It was not exactly how I planned to finish the day but overall it was another good day so it's all good. I putted brilliantly the first couple of days. I got a little sloppy on my final nine today but other than that struck the ball very well as well, had a lot of chances and rolled in a lot of nice putts.
Putting has indeed been key in Stadler’s success, needing just 27 on Day 1 before going one better on Day 2 with 26 according to the European Tour’s statistics.
If he can continue his form with the flat stick then he’s going to be incredibly hard to catch for the chasing pack, and Graeme McDowell is among those leading the charge.
The Northern Irishman added a two-under-par 69 to Thursday’s 70, putting him on three under and seven shots back of Stadler.
McDowell won this Open de France last year with a nine-under-par total and was quick to acknowledge the brilliance of Stadler in his post-round interview—per European Tour’s report:
"It's a great display of golf. It's Kevin's type of golf course and if he keeps playing like that he's going to be tough to catch, but I feel like three under is not a bad return for the last two days and if I can go low tomorrow and get myself back into it, who knows?"
Elswhere, Michael Hoey shot the joint low round of the day with a five-under 66 to put him level with McDowell in a tie for fourth.
The Northern Irishman carded seven birdies, including four in a row from the 13th to the 16th, to put himself into contention, but the day once again belonged to Stadler.
If he keeps his putter hot then he could be on for just the second European Tour victory of his career, but the star-studded chasing back will have the American looking over his shoulder.
With McDowell, Hoey and a whole host of others looking to knock Stadler from his perch, it’s set to be a dramatic weekend in the French capital.
Day 1 Recap
American Kevin Stadler took the clubhouse lead after the first day of the 2014 Open de France on Thursday, shooting a seven-under-par 64 on a hot day at Paris' Le Golf National.
Stadler hasn't won a European Tour event since 2006, but the 34-year-old put together an excellent day of golf to pass Marcel Siem on the leaderboard, the German having taken the lead after the early session.
Stadler was flawless on Thursday, finishing with seven birdies and not a single shot over par. His four birdies on the first five holes of the back nine took him straight to the top of the leaderboard, as shared by the Golf Channel:
Here how things stand after the first day of action at Le Golf National:
|T5*||Felipe Aguilar (After 17)||Chile||-3||/|
Full leaderboard and video highlights can be found at Europeantour.com.
Stadler is looking to better the performances of his father Craig over the next three days, per the European Tour's official Twitter account:
Leader Kevin Stadler (-7/14) at Le Golf National this week looking to better his father Craig's sole #OpendeFrance result of T22 in 1987— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 3, 2014
Siem, who won the tournament back in 2012, started the day off with a bang, shooting six under and displaying some fine scrambling work, completing 16 of 18.
The German clearly enjoys the technical course in Paris, and he told Europeantour.com he always enjoys coming back to France:
I always enjoy coming back here, I love the track and had a good start this morning. The putts finally started dropping, last week my putting was horrible, so I am really pleased. I was really tired.
I can't wait to go to bed. I said that to my caddie on the third hole, I need to get my batteries loaded up.
Siem was excellent on the front nine, finishing with a score of 32, but his bogey on 18 opened the door for Stadler to pass him on the leaderboard heading into Friday.
Scotland's Stephen Gallacher sits two shots off the lead, courtesy of a fantastic display on the back nine, requiring just 31 shots. Starting on the back nine, Gallacher shot two bogeys on his final three holes (Nos. 7 and 9), but a five-under 66 still puts him in an excellent position to impress European captain Paul McGinley.
England's David Howell celebrated a personal milestone on Thursday, becoming the second-youngest player in European Tour history to make 500 total appearances, per their Twitter account:
The Open de France carries the biggest purse in all of Continental Europe, and with Ryder Cup European captain McGinley not playing due to a shoulder injury, several players will try to seize their opportunity to impress the Irishman.
The weather is expected to take a turn for the worse in the coming days, per weather.com, so golfers will have to adjust their strategies and account for showers on Friday and potentially strong winds on Saturday.