Thomas Levet will make his maiden Staysure Tour appearance when he tees it up tomorrow on Day One of the Farmfoods European Senior Masters.
The Frenchman comes into the week on a high after being heavily involved in his hometown’s successful first-staging of The Ryder Cup, where Team Europe dominated Team USA in front of record crowds that were nearly 40 per cent Francophone.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “The crowds, the response we had. I warned the people that The Ryder Cup is unbelievable and said that it would be a great gift. I could tell they thought I was exaggerating, but last week was even greater than what I told them, so that was great to see the smiles on all the people, hear the singing, and be a part of the atmosphere.”
The Paris native has enjoyed a successful career competing against the game’s best players, notching six wins on the European Tour, and is now excited to be back competing against his old rivals.
“I’m feeling young — I’m back to being a rookie again,” he said. “It’s quite funny to see my friends again, you know I haven’t seen most of them for a good six or seven years and it’s good to see the names on the Staysure Tour. I’m going to enjoy being back out there.
“We’re going to be playing a course where I played my first British Masters and it’s never been an easy test this golf course.”
Levet’s professional trophy haul stands fittingly bookended by two wins on home soil — his first-ever European Tour triumph at the 1998 Cannes Open, and his most recent win, a one stroke victory over Thorbjørn Olesen and Mark Foster at the 2011 Open de France on the now infamous Le Golf National, host venue of The 2018 Ryder Cup.
A nagging injury had prevented the golfing star from being able to compete in recent years, which he admits caused him to wonder about his future in the game.
“I had a knee injury, and when you have an injury like that you cannot walk that much,” he said. “The problem I had was that in the swing, you push on your left knee, and the left knee was the one that bothered me, so it was not fun.
“It was three years of not any fun. I couldn’t exercise, I couldn’t practice, but I still played when I could, and I kept in touch with the game. I didn’t know if I would make the Staysure Tour or not, but now I’m here and I’m thrilled about it.”
The man who celebrated his 50th birthday on September 5 has long been a big-time player. At The 2002 Open Championship, he battled extremely difficult conditions over 72 holes at Muirfield Golf Links to finish in a four-way tie for the lead alongside Ernie Els, Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington.
Appleby and Elkington could not keep pace in the prescribed four-hole play-off, which saw Levet and Els continue on to a next-hole-wins battle.
While Els would ultimately triumph at Muirfield, Levet cemented his place in history as a superior links player with yet another top five finish two years later at The 2004 Open Championship, which was played at the famed Royal Troon Golf Club.
A member of Team Europe at The 2004 Ryder Cup, Levet would go on to hoist the biennial trophy in record-setting fashion — an 18 ½ – 9 ½ drumming of the Americans, including a Sunday Singles win over Fred Funk, in what still stands as the largest margin of victory ever recorded by a European team.
For now though, the new ‘youngest man on Tour’ is just excited to be back competing.
“I haven’t scored for a long time,” he said. “I can’t wait to have that scorecard in my pocket once again.”
The Farmfoods European Senior Masters runs from October 5-7 at Forest of Arden Hotel & Country Club and will feature an elite field complete with 14 different players who have represented Team Europe at The Ryder Cup through the years.