Levet looks to defend his French Open title against strong field in Paris

Thomas Levet at the Alstom French Open
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Thomas Levet was jubilant after jumping in the greenside lake last year at the French Open, but then realized he'd hurt his leg and was out for three months.
By
PA Sport

Series: European Tour

PARIS -- A year after he broke his leg while jumping into a greenside lake to celebrate his Alstom French Open win, Thomas Levet hasn’t ruled out jumping in again on Sunday if he can repeat his feat at Le Golf National near Paris.

Levet's mishap last year put him out of the British Open, and he didn’t play again until September.

"I hope I go in again," said the defending champion, one of only two French players to lift the title since 1969. "It means I won the tournament."

Not so enthusiastic about taking the leap is Colin Montgomerie, the winner in 2000.

"I think it is the silliest thing that players have done over the years," he said. "I have always been suspect about people diving into lakes, not knowing how deep they are and what is in there.

"There could be something sharp. He was lucky it was only a leg injury," he added. "It's not the way to celebrate -- taking the next three months off because you've hurt yourself."

Levet plays the first two rounds at the 2018 Ryder Cup venue in the company of Justin Rose and Ian Poulter. Rose hasn’t played in the event since 2004 but, like his former Cup partner, has chosen to make this his final warm-up for the Open rather than next week's Scottish Open.

The same goes for world No. 3 Lee Westwood, looking for back-to-back victories on European soil after taking the Nordea Masters in Sweden four weeks ago, and U.S. Open runner-up Graeme McDowell.

Westwood's 22 European Tour wins don’t include the French Open, but he has had a number of near-misses -- including a playoff defeat to Martin Kaymer three years ago.

That day, Westwood shot 65 to force sudden death, but he went in the lake -- with an errant shot rather than in celebration -- on the first extra hole.

"Martin's ball carried the water by a foot and mine must have gone in by a foot. That's the chance you take in playoffs," he said. The pair went on to be partners in the last Ryder Cup and are back together for the opening 36 holes.

"It would mean something special to win because of the history of the tournament," Westwood said. "It's a very old national championship (first contested in 1906) and it's a prestigious title to win. There's some great names who have won it.

"One of my best-ever results when I came on Tour was here -- I finished fourth in 1994 to Mark Roe. That was the first time I played the course and I've enjoyed playing it ever since," he explained. "It's a good test -- difficult and a lot of thick rough, which brings on my hay fever. It's quite tight and it's good because you get penalized for hitting bad shots."

Welshman Jamie Donaldson is looking to follow up his first European Tour victory last week at the Irish Open -- in his 255th European Tour event -- while 1995 winner Paul Broadhurst, now 46, has already tasted some success this week. The former Ryder Cup star won one of the four final qualifying events for the Open on Tuesday.

There is another Open spot on offer now and among those looking for a top-five finish are Montgomerie, BMW International Open winner Danny Willett, former major winners Michael Campbell, Shaun Micheel and Rich Beem and last year's amateur sensation Tom Lewis.

Lewis, 21, whose opening 65 at Sandwich gave him a share of the lead and was the lowest round ever by an amateur in the championship, failed to qualify at Sunningdale last week and then rather than playing in Ireland flew to Las Vegas to seek help from top coach Butch Harmon.

"You can tell from my scoring and my putting and my stats that my game is not in the shape it was this time last year," said Lewis, who has missed four of his last five cuts. "I think it's a good thing for me to have this stage in my life because it's going to make me realize how hard you need to work."