Englishman Tommy Fleetwood fired a flawless closing round five under 66 to win the HNA Open de France by a single stroke and further stake his claim as one of the favourites for The Open Championship later this month.
The 26 year old started the final day a shot off the lead at the tough Le Golf National but he found the lead at the par-3 2nd hole when his tee shot finished just millimetres from the cup. He moved into a share of the lead and a birdie at the 3rd hole had him atop the leaderboard by himself – it was a position he would not give up for the rest of the afternoon.
American Peter Uihlein made a run at Fleetwood with four back nine birdies but he fell one shot shy of a forcing a play-off with his three under 68, which saw him finish outright second at 11 under.
Dane Thorbjorn Olesen(65), Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera (66) and Swede Alexander Bjork (71) all finished three strokes back in a tie for third. Kiwi Ryan Fox (67) was a shot further back in sixth place.
Of consolation for Uihlein, Bjork and Lorenzo-Vera is they secured starts in the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale starting on July 20.
Fleetwood, who struggled for form a few years back and saw his ranking drop outside the top-200 in the world, now moves into the top-20 and leads the European Tour’s Race to Dubai after this second victory for the 2017 season having also won the Abu Dhabi Championship in February.
“Sometimes you just can't control how you play or how others play. But it won't be down to lack of sort of self-belief when it comes down to having to play. We'll just have to see what happens." - Tommy Fleetwood.
He also has four other top-5s this season including the WGC-Mexico Championship and US Open Championship last month.
Now his focus shifts to The Open and Royal Birkdale, a course he grew up playing and still lives within a 60-minute drive from.
“It's obviously going to be an amazing experience support-wise. It's the one course in the area that I've probably got the least experience on, just because of the exclusivity of it; it's Royal Birkdale. But I live an hour away now, so that's the first year The Open's there and I've got a longer drive to go, but I can still stay at home,” Fleetwood said.
“But I think looking at it and people wishing me good luck and people talking about it, it's going to be an experience that I've never had in my life and I think very few people get the chance to have a home crowd that's massively in your favour and play a tournament where, however many people will be watching me, will all want me to do well.
“So I mean, good or bad, whatever the draw is, however I play, it's going to be an experience that I'll never forget just for the sheer support I think that I'm going to have, which is exciting in itself to look forward to.”
Given his form consistently good form at the moment, can he win at Birkdale?
“I hope so,” he smiled. “If I play well or I don't play well, it won't be down to lack of belief in myself. I've put a lot of work in in my time, and I'm clearly – I don't have to say it really, but I'm in the form of my life.
“Sometimes you just can't control how you play or how others play. But it won't be down to lack of sort of self-belief when it comes down to having to play. We'll just have to see what happens.
“If my game stays in the shape it's been in; US Open I felt was a massive breakthrough for me, getting up there in a major.
RIGHT: Scott Hend was the best of the Aussie contingent. PHOTO: Andrew Redington.
“And I might not have played good enough on Sunday and Brooks played amazing, but it was good to see how I felt. I felt very comfortable. I felt the more I got into the rounds, I felt like I could do it. I felt like I could perform in a major on a late Sunday environment.
“So I welcome the challenge to see if I can do it or not. The more I can get into contention in majors, the better, really.”
Queensland’s Scott Hend was the best of the Australians in a tie for 32nd place. Hend was well in the mix after two rounds but a third round six over 77 saw him slip back down the leaderboard. He fought back well on the final day with a two under 69.