Siem's win opens up Major opportunity
FRENCH OPEN:MARCEL SIEM came up with a dream way to burst into the world’s top 100 for the first time yesterday.
Eight years after his only previous European Tour victory, the 31-year-old German won the Alstom French Open by a stroke from Italian Francesco Molinari at Le Golf National near Paris.
Siem, whose performance also earns him a place in the Open Championship, took continental Europe’s oldest golf title with a superb closing 67 and eight-under-par total of 276.
He began the week 120th on the rankings, but has moved into the top 60 in one mighty leap – and picked up a cheque for €525,000.
Last year’s champion Thomas Levet jumped into the lake to celebrate and broke his leg, but thrilled though he was and excitable though he is – nobody has more fist-pumps on the course – Siem sensibly decided to stay out of the water.
“I’m just going to have some nice French champagne,” he said. “I’ve had so many tournaments I kind of destroyed this year and I am so happy I got it done. It’s all about winning in the end and now I’m in the Open, which is unbelievable.”
Molinari, who lost a play-off to Miguel Angel Jimenez on the course two years ago, threatened to pull off an astonishing win after double-bogeying the opening hole.
He was eight behind at that point, but then grabbed nine birdies and set the target with a best-of-the-week 64.
Siem was joint leader at the time and responded by splashing out of sand to seven feet at the long 14th, then hitting a glorious iron to four feet on the dangerous next.
There were still three tough holes to come, but he parred the first two and after driving into a bunker on the last achieved the bogey which he knew was probably going to be good enough.
French hope Raphael Jacquelin could have forced sudden death by holing his second to the 18th, but a par four left him third on his own on six under.
One stroke further back were English trio Ian Poulter, David Lynn and joint overnight leader David Howell.
While Howell could never make amends for bogeying two of the first three holes, Poulter had a share of the lead for a while, but bogeyed the final two holes for a 69.
Molinari’s second place lifts him into an automatic qualifying position for the Ryder Cup with only seven weeks of the race to go.
The 10th and final spot has changed the last three weeks. First Nicolas Colsaerts was replaced by Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, then it was Rafa Cabrera-Bello and now it is Molinari, a member of Colin Montgomerie’s winning side two years ago.
“Just a crazy day really,” said Molinari. “Two years ago when I was second I double-bogeyed the first on the last day.
“All of a sudden everything was going in.”
Ireland’s Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell finished tied 17th on level par 284 after rounds of 70 and 72 respectively yesterday.
World number three Lee Westwood climbed 18 places to 40th with a closing 70. That came a day after it looked as if he might be pulling out with knee and groin trouble after he slipped walking to the first tee.
“The leg is fine – it wasn’t a problem today,” Westwood said, after completing his final round before the Open at Royal Lytham starting on Thursday week.
Ireland’s Des Smyth fired a final round 66 to surge to a fourth-place finish at the Senior Tour’s Bad Ragaz PGA Seniors Open.
The Drogheda professional’s four-under-par effort saw the Irishman finish on eight under, four strokes behind American Tim Thelen.
Smyth looked to be falling out of the tournament as he reached the turn in one under, but three back nine birdies saw him charge up the leaderboard and pocket €12,400 for his efforts at Bad Ragaz.
Denis O’Sullivan produced a final round 67 to finish the week on three under while Philip Walton was 50th on three over.