PARIS – Justin Thomas discovered just how tough Le Golf National will be for this year’s Ryder Cup during the opening round of this week’s $7 million HNA French Open.
The World No. 2 returned an opening 1-under 70 that could have been two or three shots lower if not for deep rough around the 7,234-yard, par-71 layout. Thomas started from the 10th tee at 8 a.m. local time in the company of Tommy Fleetwood and Alexander Levy. He dropped a shot on the par-4 13th hole, and then double bogeyed the par-4 fifth. He hit 4-iron off both tees.
“I knew right when I got here this was a very difficult golf course,” Thomas said. “I knew that you had to hit in play. You can get it snowballing pretty quickly out here if you’re not careful.”
Thomas’ tee shot at the fifth only missed the fairway by about five paces, but he found himself in deep rough. He hit a shank trying to extricate the ball. He found rough on the other side of the fairway, pitched into a bunker and then missed an 8-foot bogey putt.
“Mine obviously wasn’t a good tee shot,” Thomas said. “For all the potential lies that I had around where my ball was, my ball seemed to sit down pretty heavy but that’s going to happen, especially in this fescue. You have to just try to hit the fairways.
“It’s very challenging. You take a hole like one, for instance, you’re hitting a 4-iron straight downwind and it’s a very big, generous fairway, but it still makes you think. You’ve got water on the left and you have rough and fescue on the right. You can’t take any shots off out here. You really have to stay focused and kind of keep in the zone.”
Le Golf National is so tough Thomas is glad he won’t have to keep a card when he makes his Ryder Cup debut.
“I can’t imagine how it has the potential to play in September,” Thomas said. “I think all of us will be happy to know that this will be a match play and not a stroke-play event. You get a cold, rainy, windy day out here and you can post a pretty high number.”