Levet would love a win without Claret in jug

By: samjack


Thomas Levet started the first hole of his third round in a red polo shirt and finished it swaddled in blue waterproofs. But although the sky rained on his parade, not much else seemed to get under his skin. The joker had his poker face on.
Levet isn’t just a personality, he’s many personalities. He describes them as good Thomas, normal Thomas and bad Thomas. But there is also multilingual Thomas, who is learning Japanese and who cheekily talked to Justin Rose in Portuguese after England had lost to the hosts at Euro 2004.
There is Thomas possessed who, like Thomas Bjorn, was infiltrated by demons, “but it wasn’t demons, it was spiders and ghosts”. And there is funny Thomas who replied to the question why there were so many French winners on tour this year by saying, “It’s the dope, man”.
He claims that it was so windy when he came to Scotland the first time, that he nearly missed the first tee because the starter’s hut had been blown 100 yards down the fairway. But he has certainly learned to play in the wind. Encouraged by the sporting support of Stephen Ames, his playing partner, Levet held on to score 74 on the Saturday of the Muirfield Open, on an afternoon when Tiger Woods was blown away to an 81.
He eventually lost in a play-off to Ernie Els but few will forget how he lifted the big man off the ground, celebrating the South African’s victory in a remarkable act of Levet-ation. Maybe that is why his progress this week has been accompanied by shouts of Allez Toe-Mass in accents as thick as Scotch broth. There would be few more popular winners than the Frenchman, at least in European terms. In these parts Monty is the main man, but in France Levet is Monsieur Big.
After the second round Ladbrokes made the Frenchman third favourite, but even before the start of the Championship Padraig Harrington had picked him out as one to watch. Three weeks ago Harrington said, “An outside bet is someone like Thomas Levet who hits it straight and low, loves links golf and who’s putting will be suited by the slower greens”. On Friday Levet’s putting was not at its best, but he was drilling long irons from the tee as accurately as a dentist doing root canal work.
But can he keep his head, a part of his anatomy that has become detached in the past. He was once playing a tournament in Germany, took a shower and then had to call down because there were no towels. Forty minutes later there were still no towels, the only known case in history when the Germans have forgotten to have the planet pretty well covered by dawn, and Thomas was cold and wet. “My ‘ead, eet come off,” is the way he explained his loss of temper.
It was not the first time that bad Thomas had huffed and puffed and dynamited the building. He says, “I can destroy anyone, especially in a restaurant,” when making Thomas wait for butter is as provocative as driving a truck into his living room.
His finest explosion on a golf course came when Levet hit a wedge to 10 feet, marked and cleaned his ball, studied the line and then missed the putt. Patiently he went through the routine again and missed again. And again. And again. After the fourth time he went up to his ball with malice in his heart and whacked it back down the fairway. He took the new yardage from his caddie, pitched back on to the green and eventually found the hole with his tenth shot.
After that it was natural that he should go into club design, because it’s not always easy to find a putter that hits the ball 80 yards. Levet reckons that he is the only golfer other than Tiger Woods to be so involved in design. As he puts it, “My word is on every club”. And being French, one of Levet’s words is style. The white grips that he plays with are the height of funk chic, and we’re not talking funk as in Fred.
The American could not be bothered to turn up for the Open, a farcical insult when compared to Levet who had to pull out of qualifying with his legs shaking from fatigue. But he made it into the Championship when he won at Loch Lomond and he will be well worth toasting should he win at Troon.
Just don’t make it a glass of Claret. Levet says, “I hate wine. It is the worst thing you can make me eat or drink. It is my number one dislike. If you want to invite me round and you make me eat asparagus and drink wine, then you do not know me. I hate those two things.” You still get vintage Levet even when he’s corked.

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