Former champion Levet looks to maintain French connection in Scotland
ONE of two Frenchmen who have walked off the 18th green at Loch Lomond in a fine mist of champagne over the past four years, Thomas Levet plans to mark his country's success at the Barclays Scottish Open by planting the Tricolore on top of Ben Lomond.
"With Gregory (Havret] winning here last year, Loch Lomond has become a lucky place for the French," grinned the former Ryder Cup player. "We have put our flag on top of the mountain, but you just haven't seen it yet. This is now French territory."
The son of a Parisian doctor, Levet has enjoyed some of the best moments of his career in Scotland. As well as winning the Scottish Open, he went as close as any Frenchman since Arnaud Massy to winning the Open at Muirfield in 2002 when he missed out in a play-off with Ernie Els. He was also fifth in the Open at Troon.
Levet, 39, has been establishing a French connection on the bonnie banks since the course first opened. "I played the course for the first time in 1990 and I fell in love with it right away," he said. "Believe me, that doesn't always happen. I've usually played pretty well here. Sometimes I haven't putted too well but I have always finished decently. I've never had a bad week here.
"I love the way the course is set up, I love the way it looks and the way it plays. That's why I've performed well here. Once you've won a tournament, you get even better memories. It is always easy to come back here.
"I have two or three courses on the European Tour that I really love and this is one of them, along with Wentworth and the BMW in Munich. I always seem to perform well on those three courses. I can do good things on them and I enjoy playing them."
Levet's astonishing final round of 63 in 2004 – he covered the back nine on Sunday in 29 that summer – remains one of the highlights of a notable career.
"My victory here is pretty high on my list of career achievements," he said. "It's right up there with anything I've done in this game. That victory here meant I got into the Open the next week and with it being in Scotland as well, and me being the Scottish Open champion, I was very popular that week.
"It was fun and for three-and-a-half days I was leading the British Open before finishing fifth. So that span of 15 days was incredible for me. I was never more than one shot behind the leader throughout the competition (at Royal Troon]."
Currently 37th in the Order of Merit but outside the world's top 100, Levet, who has another past champion, Johan Edfors, for company today, believes he can again pose a threat this week.
"I'm playing well," he added. "My putter has been decent but not great – that's why I was 30th in the French and 17th last week. But the long game and short game are good. I just need to make a few more putts to be in the hunt. I haven't qualified yet for the Open, so it is the same situation as it was in 2004. I needed a great week here to get into the Open and into the Ryder Cup. It's exactly the same this year. If I can repeat the summer I had four years ago, then I will be there."
Apart from a top ten finish at the Italian Open, this has been a fairly quiet season for the defending champion. If winning at Loch Lomond was one of the glittering moment's in Levet's career, defeating Phil Mickelson in a play-off here 12 months ago marked the summit of Havret's achievements to date.
"It's very exciting to be back here after everything that happened last year," enthused Havret. "That was one of the best moments of my career and will live with me forever. We had the French Open two weeks ago and as soon as that was over, I was looking forward to coming back to Loch Lomond. It's important to me I put up a good defence of my title. I have thought a lot about that and I want to do well.
"Playing with Phil in the last round last year gave me so much confidence and self-belief. During our round, I shot 69 and he took 70 which got me into the play-off. To outscore the world No2 in such a pressure situation did a lot for my confidence. Then, of course, I won the play-off.
"He hit his drive into the water, which took a bit of the pressure off me, but I still hit a perfect drive and played the hole really well. Since that day, I have been someone else in my head. I now believe that on any day, I can beat anyone."
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Monday 20 May 2013
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