Levy could become next breakout star on Euro Tour


He was born in California, plays under the French flag and wears a hat brandishing his nickname: "El Toro."

He is Alexander Levy, and while his player bio may evoke quizzical looks, one thing is clear - the 24-year-old is poised to become the next breakout star on the European Tour.

Essentially off the map of professional golf less than a year ago, Levy took control of this week's BMW Masters in China with a third-round 63 to build a four-shot lead heading into Sunday's finale. Should he win, it will be his third victory on the European Tour this year - joining Rory McIlroy as the only players with three or more wins in 2014 - and his second trophy in less than a month.

Just as friend and countryman Victor Dubuisson did around this time last year, Levy appears ready to ascend from obscurity into a position to become one of Europe's next big hits.

Levy had a decorated amateur career in France, and after turning pro in 2011, he made it to the European Tour two years later, ranked outside the top 600 in the OWGR. He began this year at No. 226, then broke through to claim the Volvo China Open in April for his maiden victory, winning by four shots and beating the likes of Henrik Stenson, Ian Poulter and Francesco Molinari in the process.

The victory has served as a launching pad for Levy, whose 15 subsequent starts have netted eight top-25 finishes, including another win at the rain-shortened Portugal Masters last month. There, he took the title at the 36-hole event with rounds of 63-61.

The seeds have been planted for Levy to thrive on an even larger stage. He made his first major championship appearance at the PGA Championship this year, where he finished a respectable T-30. He has also contended this year at high-profile European Tour events like the BMW PGA Championship (T-12) and the Scottish Open (T-21).

Now No. 74 in the world, Levy will only rise further following this week's event, and he is in position to take advantage of an OWGR system in which the rich tend to get richer. He is already in the field for next week's WGC-HSBC Champions, a no-cut event, and at No. 19 in the Race to Dubai, he will continue to accrue points against elite fields through the end of the month.

The carrot at the end of the stick is a spot in the OWGR top 50 at year's end, which would allow him to build a schedule for 2015 that includes multiple stops in the U.S. - notably, The Masters.

Players in the top 50 are able to feast on invitationals and limited-field events, earning access to tournaments that others below them cannot reach, then boosting their relative standing simply by showing up. Players like Dubuisson, Jamie Donaldson, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and Joost Luiten have used their top 50 ranking in the last two years to play more PGA Tour events, with some even taking up special temporary membership in the States.

Whether Levy goes that route remains to be seen, but based on his play this year it appears likely the opportunity will soon be afforded to him.

While the most notable image of French golf is still Jean van de Velde wading into the Barry Burn 15 years after he gave away the Open Championship, the rising crop of French talent appears eager to leave a more positive imprint on the game. Players like Dubuisson and Levy, who have been friends since they were teenagers, are clearly talented and have translated that talent into wins against some of the game's best, with Levy on the cusp of adding to the recent trophy collection for Les Bleus.

By the time the 2018 Ryder Cup tees off at Le Golf National in Paris, Levy could be a key cog in the European wheel. Before then, though, he's on a path to become a household name in Europe - if not beyond.