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Wednesday July 17, 2024

Pavon tries to snap 117-year French drought with US Open win

By AFP
June 17, 2024
Matthieu Pavon, trying to become the first man from France to win a major title since 1907, will play in Sundays final pairing at the US Open. — AFP
Matthieu Pavon, trying to become the first man from France to win a major title since 1907, will play in Sunday's final pairing at the US Open. — AFP

PINEHURST: Matthieu Pavon could become the first Frenchman since 1907 to win a major golf title on Sunday, when he joins leader Bryson DeChambeau in the final pairing at the US Open.

Only Arnaud Massey´s victory in the 1907 British Open at Royal Liverpool has produced a trophy for France. The mere prospect of it brings back memories of France´s Jean van de Velde losing a three-stroke lead on the final hole of the 1999 British Open, the scene of an engraver taking his name off the Claret Jug a stunner as Paul Lawrie won in a playoff.

The 117-year drought is part of why it would be so dear to France, says the man poised to end it. “Would mean everything,” Pavon said. “It would be huge. We had Arnaud Massy back in the days at the Open. In the new days, we don´t have a major champion.

“That´s the dream every French player has been chasing so far. Having someone capable to lift the trophy like that would be pretty big for me and my country.” Pavon became the first US PGA Tour winner from France since Massy by capturing the title at Torrey Pines in January.

And French women have won major titles. Celine Boutier will defend her title at a women´s major, the Evian Championship, next month in her homeland. Catherine Lacoste in 1967 and Patricia Meunier-Lebouc in 2003 have also taken major triumphs.

So what would Pavon want fans to know about him? That he´s “nothing special.” “I just love golf. That´s the thing. I´m just so happy to compete here in America. It has been a remarkable journey for me,” Pavon said.

“I´m a pretty regular guy and it´s just awesome to be here and having a chance to share the last round in a major in the last group with a guy like Bryson.” DeChambeau, the 2020 US Open winner and last month´s PGA Championship runner-up, stands on seven-under 203 after 54 holes at Pinehurst, where domed greens with big slopes and dirt and weeds around fairways offer a unique challenge.

Pavon shares second with American Patrick Cantlay and Northern Ireland´s Rory McIlroy on 206. “Major tournaments are the toughest tournaments in the world. You have to be pretty dialed in on every compartment of your game and even more mentally,” Pavon said.

“I think being patient and relentless will be the key because the course is tough. You´re going to have to live with some mistakes. This is how you overcome the ones that are going to make a difference.

“At the end of the day, it´s me against the golf course. Even more in majors, my only goal every time I show up is trying to beat the golf course. Here it´s tough. The only thing I´m focused on is that goal.”

Pavon reeled off three birdies on the front nine Saturday only to bogey twice on the back side to shoot 69. “It´s a tough one,” Pavon said. “You feel like sometimes you are flying a little bit, your game, everything is going on, and then at some point you just miss one green, can see a bogey, and then all of a sudden it starts to be harder in your mind and in your game, and you still have to finish the round. “That was an up-and-down day but really happy with the score so far.”