It is one of golf’s hoariest clichés, up there with “stepped up to the plate”, “touch of a surgeon” and “ball-striking machine”. Holes/rounds/tournaments containing an element of inconsistency – ups, downs and everything in-between – are routinely and lazily covered by the snooze-inducing phrase, “roller-coaster ride”.
But how else can we describe Rasmus Hojgaard’s week at the Cazoo Open de France?
In defence of clichés, they are invariably clichés for a reason. So it is that, although a wee glance at the leaderboard after four rounds at the Albatross course at Le Golf National tells us that Guido Migliozzi actually won continental Europe’s oldest national title, there can be no doubt that, for three-and-a-half rounds at least, the play of the 21-year-old Dane formed the most compelling narrative at the 2018 Ryder Cup venue. He was a cliché-writer’s dream.
Consider the following:
Opening with a nine-under par 62, Hojgaard followed with a 65 that left him 15-under after 36 holes, six shots clear of the field and, by the way, 13 ahead of Migliozzi. It was a “birdie barrage” that made him the “runaway leader” and a strong favourite to add his name to a distinguished list of past champions that includes James Braid, J.H. Taylor, Roberto De Vicenzo, Bobby Locke, Byron Nelson, Kel Nagle, Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Nick Faldo, Retief Goosen, Colin Montgomerie and Jose Maria Olazabal.
But that sizeable advantage didn’t last long, however. Less than an hour, to be exact. After making a par on the opening hole of Saturday’s third round, Hojgaard needed 8 shots to complete the par-3 second. Three times his shots found “watery graves” short of the green. And when a bogey 6 appeared on his card at the third, the three-time DP World Tour winner was merely tied for the lead.
Commendably, Hojgaard fought back. Five birdies and three bogeys later, he was round in 74 and still clinging to a one-shot edge over South Africa’s George Coetzee. Migliozzi, almost incidentally was up to T-7 after a 66.
“I was pretty far down mentally after that start, it was tough but I had to try tell myself that I’ve been playing good the past few days and I shouldn’t let it bother me too much,” he said at the end of day three. “I just tried my best to stay in there and try hit some good shots. I’m proud that I stayed in there and made a few birdies along the way.”
Pretty good, eh? No question. But not quite good enough, as things turned out. Five holes into his final round Migliozzi was seven-under par for the week and plodding along quite nicely. Which was fine, given that the 25-year-old Italian’s form since he finished T-4 alongside Brooks Koepka and Collin Morikawa in the 2021 US Open at Torrey Pines has been less than distinguished. Only once in the intervening 15 months did Migliozzi record a top-10 finish on the DP World Tour.
Until now that is.
From the par-4 sixth, Migliozzi started making birdies. And never really stopped. The four pars he made amid the nine times he posted a number with a circle around it were merely brief pauses within an otherwise relentless onslaught that got the native of Vicenza round in 62 (the lowest final round by a winner in the 104-year history of the championship) and to 16-under par.
Appropriately, Migliozzi saved the best for the last. And what a best it was. On the hardest hole on the course, Migliozzi faded his 4-iron approach to the 18th off the lake on the left of the distant green to four feet from the cup. It was a thing of beauty, surely the shot of his six-year professional career and bequeathed the first birdie of the day on the notoriously difficult water-strewn 471-yard par 4. The putt, surprise, surprise, went in, dead centre.
“This is an explosion of feelings,” said the 25-year-old champion, who picked up €510,000 for his efforts. “This has been an incredible day. I played very, very solid. I was very comfortable with my game. It was one of those days when I love to play golf. I love to battle on the course and today I received something back from the game. I just kept going and hole-by-hole I was enjoying my game. It was a beautiful day of golf.”
As for Hojgaard, he “got some revenge” on the pesky par 3 during Sunday’s final round, making a birdie (and then a nifty eagle 3 on the third hole). But he played the rest of the round in even par to shoot a closing 68 and finish in solo second.
“Obviously there’s a lot of good stuff out there. it was a few silly mistakes over the last two days that cost me the win this week, but I’m happy with where my golf is heading towards,” Hojgaard said, trying to find something from the disappointing end. “I’m striking the ball good and I’m putting nice. I’ve enjoyed it this week”
So did Migliozzi, who expressed surprise at what transpired. Teeing-off early Saturday morning at two-under par, he understandably had no thoughts of adding to his two previous DP World Tour victories, both of which came in 2019.
“My main goal this season was to keep my card,” he admitted after watching Hojgaard come up one shot shy of forcing a playoff. “I have not been playing that great. But I’ve made a few little changes and I’ve been playing better. I was confident that one day I was going to win again. I’ve been working really hard this season on my swing and the shots. I’ve always had expectations even when it wasn’t really paying off. But I have been more comfortable on the course. That was my thinking at the start of the weekend. But that changed when Rasmus ‘missed’ the second hole and opened the door for the rest of us. From there, I just kept playing great. But this is incredible. Today I proved to myself that I can be really good on the golf course. Here I am with the trophy. It’s beautiful.”
Tres bon. This week at least, Migliozzi turned out to be almost every positive cliché imaginable.