French golfers have moved closer to an historic first victory in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, and led by Matthieu Pavon as he goes into the weekend only one shot off the lead at the Heritage Golf Club.
Pavon signed for a 66 on Friday to climb to 11 under par alongside South Africa’s Brandon Stone and Belgium’s Thomas Detry. They are chasing the 12-under-par lead of Scotland’s Calum Hill who posted a second round of 64.
In the five years of the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, the best finish by a Frenchman has been Pavon who finished runner-up last year. In 2017, Heritage ambassador Romain Langasque finished third while Pavon was fifth that year.
But this weekend, Pavon will lead a strong French challenge for the title. Behind him on 10 under par are fellow Frenchmen Benjamin Hebert and Challenge Tour graduate Antoine Rozner.
“It’s great. There are a few of us in the top 10 going into the weekend,” said Pavon. “This island is lovely and it’s always a pleasure coming here to play golf. This is definitely a place where I am comfortable. I feel great this week so I’m going to do my best and try to win this tournament.”
Should he go on and make history as the first French champion on the fifth anniversary of this tri-sanctioned tournament, then a South African will have played a part in his triumph.
South African coach Jamie Gough has been working with Pavon for about a year now, but the two have been working together fulltime for the past few weeks.
“I started working with Jamie and he is the right coach for me. We put together a plan and I’m really pleased with the result over the last few weeks,” said Pavon, who is also pleased with the growth he sees in French golf at the moment.
“We have some young golfers coming from the Challenge Tour. Then we had Victor Perez moving into the top 50 in the world, Benjamin Hebert is a great player and Mike Lorenzo-Vera and Romain Langasque are all good players. I think we have a group of strong players now. It’s a good time for French golf.”
Rozner is doing his best not to let the expectation of a French victory hamper his focus over the next two rounds.
“I’m very happy with my performance. I’m playing well and I’m looking forward to the weekend. This is a popular destination for French golfers. But I don’t want to put all of the pressure of the French population on me. There are a few of us playing well. But it would be quite cool if I can close it out here. I’ve been here before on holiday and the people in Mauritius are very friendly and nice,” he said.
Hebert is also doing his best not to get ahead of himself with two rounds left to play.
“Two shots off the lead is a good position to be in. I think it’s better to chase than be chased. But I have my friend on the bag so we’re just going to go out there and enjoy the golf course over the next two days, and the last two rounds of the year,” he said.