Clement Sordet is heading to the Open Championship at Royal Troon in July – the Frenchman qualified along with Ryder Cup duo Jamie Donaldson and Lee Westwood and young Thai player Phachara Khongwatmai through the Thailand Golf Championship in December – as the Turkish Airlines Challenge champion.
His one-shot victory over compatriot Matthieu Pavon at Gloria Golf Club in Belek was, according to Sordet, a “great answer” to Francois Illouz, the vice president of the French Golf Federation, recently claiming the country’s professionals have been underperforming in the countdown to the 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris.
While Illouz, who won the Scottish Open Stroke-Play Championship at Blairgowrie in 1989, insisted he was expressing a personal opinion, his remarks are believed to have left the French players on both the European Tour and Challenge Tour livid. While a laid-back type, even Clement seemed to have had his feathers ruffled.
“I did not like what he said about the French players,” said the 23-year-old after having to birdie the final hole for a closing 69 and a 20-under-par 268 total, winning by one after Pavon eagled the last two matches ahead. “We’ve had two French players, Jean Van de Velde and Thomas Levet, almost winning The Open [getting into play-offs at Carnoustie and Muirfield in 1999 and 2002 respectively] and also Gregory Havret coming close to a major win in the US Open [finishing runner-up in 2010 at Pebble Beach].
“There is also a new generation of French players in Victor Dubuisson, Alexander Levy, Gary Stal, Benjamin Hebert and Romain Wattel on the European Tour, including some under 25. While I’m a calm person and don’t really care about what he [Illouz] had to say, I do think this win is a great answer.”
Belek is turning into a happy hunting ground for the French when you add in Dubuisson’s double in the Turkish Airlines Open at the nearby Montgomerie Maxx Royal in 2013 and 2015. Sordet looked to be coasting to victory until his only bogey of the day at the short 17th coincided with Pavon making his 3 at the 18th. In the end, Sordet was relieved to get over the line, backing up his breakthrough win on the circuit at Galgorm Castle in Northern Ireland last August. Looking forward to his Troon trip, the winner said: “That is going to be a fun week and I am hoping to get into the French Open to get ready for it.”
Duncan Stewart, last weekend’s winner in Madrid, finished as leading Scot in joint 41st after signing off with a 68 – his best effort of the week. “I wish the next event was starting tomorrow because I rediscovered an old swing thought off the tee and it was working well out there,” said the 31-year-old. “It is more ranking points on the board to back up the ones from last week and hopefully I can keep this momentum going.”
Ewen Ferguson echoed that sentiment after the 19-year-old Bearsden amateur closed with a seven-birdie 67 to finish a shot behind his compatriot in a tie for 51st. “This has definitely been a good tournament for me,” said Ferguson, the 2013 British Boys’ champion. “I made the cut in the first instance and I feel as though I’ve got the game to compete with the guys out here.”
Ross Kellett (73) and Bradley Neil (76) ended up 57th and 70th respectively.