France looking for new golf star one year from Ryder Cup
PARIS – Agence France-Presse
France will host its first Ryder Cup in a year’s time, but it seems unlikely that the fans at Le Golf National will have a home player to cheer as Thomas Bjorn’s Europe bid to regain the trophy from the United States.
France does not have a golfing history to compare to the British countries, or even Spain and Germany, having not had a men’s major winner since Arnaud Massy at the 1907 British Open.
The European Tour has decided to take the biennial tournament to countries that don’t have a strong traditional fanbase for the sport, with the 2022 matches to be held in Italy.
Alexander Levy is currently France’s highest-ranked player at 77 in the world, but has 22 Europeans ranked above him and will have to produce a stunning season to join the likes of Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm in European colours.
The enigmatic Victor Dubuisson became only the third French Ryder Cup player with an impressive display in 2014 but has struggled since, having been widely tipped to become the first Frenchman to play the event twice.
National technical director Christophe Muniesa claimed there was a “one-in-two chance” of a home player competing at Golf National, but 2004 Ryder Cup winner Thomas Levet was more realistic when he put those hopes at “one-in-10”.
“It could happen, as there isn’t a big difference in terms of level of play between the 50th player in the world and the 300th,” added Levet.
Levy, 27, has been France’s best player over the last few years, and the main reason he isn’t higher in the rankings is his inconsistency compared to the top players.
He has won four times on the European Tour, including the China Open in April, while another possible home contender to qualify for Bjorn’s team is the solid, although far from spectacular, Gregory Bourdy.
Dubuisson was hailed as the man to boost French golf when he claimed 2.5 points from three matches as Europe won the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles.
But the 27-year-old’s last victory was at the 2015 Turkish Open and he has slipped to world number 191, his lowest ranking in almost five and a half years.
A former top-20 player, Dubuisson is still his usual relaxed self.
“You can’t make the Ryder Cup a goal, it’s too random,” he claimed, but 238th-ranked Bourdy said he is “ultra-motivated” to qualify.
Dane Bjorn is unlikely to give a captain’s pick to a Frenchman for sentimental reasons alone, as Europe will need the strongest side possible to have any chance of beating a formidable American outfit.