When, just before Christmas, the European Tour announced its schedule for 2021, there was one especially notable name missing from the line-up. The Open de France, on the Old World circuit’s calendar since the tour’s inception in 1972, was nowhere to be seen. But now it is back. After a year’s absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the oldest of the European continent’s national championships will be played from May 6-9 at Le Golf National outside Paris.
Apart from 1999 and 2001, the Open de France has been played over the 2018 Ryder Cup course every year since 1991 and boasts a distinguished list of champions. Since it was first held in 1906, when future Open winner Arnaud Massy took the title, Major champions JH Taylor, James Braid, George Duncan, Walter Hagen, Henry Cotton, Bobby Locke, Roberto De Vicenzo, Byron Nelson, Kel Nagle, David Graham, Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Retief Goosen, Jose Maria Olazabal, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell have all etched their names on the Stoiber Cup.
The news is not all good, however. Prizemoney this year is €1.5 million, a far cry from the €7 million on offer in 2017 and 2018, when the event was part of the lucrative Rolex Series. The most recent title sponsor, Amundi, has also departed, having made the decision to switch to the Evian Masters, one of the five Major championships on the LPGA Tour. As of now, Amundi has not been replaced.
Still, the new slot on the schedule does fill a conveniently placed hole, one that fits the European Tour’s policy of minimising travel between events as much as is practically possible. Thus, the Open de France will be the fourth tournament in a five-week spring stretch on European soil between the Masters and the PGA Championship, joining the Tenerife Open, Gran Canaria Open, Portugal Masters and Betfred British Masters.
Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour, said: “The Open de France is one of our most historic tournaments, and Le Golf National is one of the leading venues in Europe, so we are delighted to confirm that both will feature as part of our schedule this year. As well as being part of a travel-friendly run in Europe at that time of the year, the tournament also helps us celebrate the wonderful heritage of the national opens on the European Tour.”