With less than four weeks to go until the Challenge Tour’s inaugural Hopps Open de Provence, officials at the host venue, Golf International Pont Royal, are confident the venue will allow the Tour to live up to its name.
The Hopps Open de Provence takes place from September 20-23 – just a little more than a week before the Ryder Cup, in Paris – and the pros are running out of events to secure the necessary points to claim a top-15 place in the to guarantee full playing rights to the 2019 European Tour international schedule
Officials at Pont Royal are also under pressure as they look to ensure the Severiano Ballesteros-designed course – France’s only Ballesteros design – will provide as tough a challenge as any on the Tour this season.
A club spokesman said: “The greens-staff are working overtime to ensure the course does not suffer in the heat we’ve been experiencing. But they’re not just watering heavily, they’re also fine tuning the course to provide a good test for the pros and to ensure a good spectacle for those who come along to watch.”
The ‘fine tuning’ includes ensuring the first cut of rough, and then the rough itself, is of a consistent length and also refilling all bunkers on the course with a striking yellow sand. In addition, a new bunker has been constructed on the eighth fairway to catch out attempts to pre-empt the dog-leg.
What’s more the intention is for the greens to be running at a lightning-quick 13-14 on the stimpmeter by the time the tournament tees off – the same sort of speed as the greens at Augusta National, when the Masters hits town.
More than 100 volunteers from golf clubs across Provence will take on marshalling duties for the duration of the event, as the anticipation for the visit of the Challenge Tour grows.
The spokesman added: “It’s been some time since Provence hosted a professional golf event of this standing, so people are increasingly excited about it. And, as we’re heading towards the end of the Road to Ras Al Khaimah we’re hopeful there might be one or two well-known names in the field, as well.”
Many holes at Pont Royal are blessed with a plateau setting, offering stunning views to the Luberon and Alpilles mountain ranges. Technical shaping of shots is required to reach the true, slick greens, and visitors enjoy an interesting, wide variety of holes that form a smooth and seamless experience. It contains some tough holes – none more so than the 11th, where players face a 215-yard test across a steep rocky valley to a raised green.
The Englishman saw a commanding lead cut after a stuttering back nine.
Brooks Koepka made a not-so-subtle dig at Bryson DeChambeau’s “anthill” moment from the first round in Memphis.
The tournament marked the resumption of the tour.
Horsfield fired an eagle and seven birdies in a second round of 63 at the Forest of Arden to share the halfway lead with Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez.
Koepka carded a superb 62 to take a two-stroke lead after the opening day.
A change in date from August to May last year placed the tournament second in line behind the Masters, in calendar terms at least.
The four-time major winner shot 62 in his opening round.
The Northern Irishman needs to win to reclaim the world number one spot from Jon Rahm.
The 56-year-old, who is already the oldest winner on Tour, shot a 64 to claim a share of second place.