Brilliant Alex Noren Produces Magical Round to Triumph at Wentworth
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
SUNDAY, May 28, 2017 - make a note of the date. It was the day that Alex Noren arrived as a truly world-class performer, reducing Wentworth's magnificent West Course to a scarcely credible 62 shots to win the BMW PGA Championship by two shots.
He was a country mile behind overnight leader Andrew Dodt at the start of play and finished almost two hours before the other contenders completed their round. The Swede, who won four times on the European Tour in 2016, finished his round with an eagle three on the treacherous 18th hole, where so many hopes came to grief in the stream to the left of the green.
Noren knew that he needed a grandstand finish and he produced it, rifling his five-iron approach to three feet and then rolling in the putt. He knew that he had achieved something special, especially with torrential rain forecast for the rest, of the day. He was able to sign his card for a new course record and sit in front of a television looking on as contender after contender came up short. When Francesco Molinari failed to hole his second shot at the last, Noren finally knew that he could not be caught, that his 11 under par total of 277 was going to be good enough to secure a first prize of 1m euros, a 10-year European Tour exemption and a bucketload of world rankings points.
From start to finish, Noren was flawless, holing a succession of birdie putts as he rose up the leaderboard.
Apart from his eagle, the 34 year old, also recorded eight birdies in his ten under par round, as he made up a seven-shot deficit. Molinari birdied the last to grab second place on his own on nine under. Noren matched the biggest comeback in the history of the BMW PGA Championship, previously achieved by Simon Khan in 2010 and Rory McIlroy in 2014.
He also produced a grandstand finish in his last European Tour triumph, carding a closing 63 to come from six shots back to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge last November. That was his fourth title of the 2016 season – and he made it five European Tour wins in just 17 appearances, three of which have come on UK soil after victories in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and British Masters.
Noren is the first Swede to win the BMW PGA Championship and his compatriot Henrik Stenson, the Open Champion, closed with a 68 to finish on eight under par in a share third place with Japan’s Hideto Tanihara (67) and Belgium’s Nicolas Colsaerts, who eagled the 12th and the 18th holes en route to a round of 65.
A crowd of 109,684 – the second highest in the history of the BMW PGA Championship – watched the tournament, which launched the Rolex Series in style, with a further seven events to follow in 2017.
Noren was stunned. “It feels very amazing and very crazy because I had no intention of trying to win this morning. You know, I didn't even think about it and I came off the course quite angry yesterday after playing a good round of two under, so it's a great feeling now.
“Now you have a chance to set up the course the way you want; if you want high rough or if you want softer greens, harder greens, whatever you want, and I think that's fantastic in a golf course. I've played it three different ways now and I've always enjoyed it because I think this whole week is very special, I think for the whole European Tour and for all the players. I think all the players see it as an amazing tournament overall here.
“I thought after the birdie on 12, you know, it was going very well. You always try to get in that zone that everybody talks about, when you've got some adrenaline mixed with focus and that's what I tried to get into. You just need to get it done today. That no tomorrow kind of feeling. Whatever way works.
“I think this tournament in my mind compares a lot with a major. What I wanted to do is play better against a better field and better, tougher courses and I view this as a very difficult course against a very tough field. So then this is very close to a Major in my mind. But overall, a win like this brings your confidence up and that's what I've always needed, to believe in myself, and then it's easier to focus on what you need to do.
“When I was younger I posted some low rounds, but I also posted some very high rounds. I feel kind of, not nervous, I feel a lot more nervous when I'm shooting high than when I'm shooting low and I think some players maybe feel the opposite and they maybe don't care when they shoot high. But I've always cared when I shoot high and not cared as much when I shoot low. So that's maybe the reason why I feel like I have an easier time.
“I've always liked British golf courses. It's fantastic – you've got great links, you've got great parkland and I've always liked this course – the crowd is always cheering for all the players. You guys like great golf. It doesn't matter who it comes from."
Molinari, who now spends much of his time on the PGA Tour, was happy enough to finish second. "I'm happy with my performance today. Obviously Alex did something quite special today, so it was hard to beat really. I think all week, unfortunately, I didn't play the front nine, especially the first few holes well enough to really give myself a chance to go low under par. I did an amazing job of the back nine every day and today was no different. I took the chances that I had and I didn't do the that yesterday. Obviously that shot, hitting the flag on 11 yesterday, proved to be really expensive.
“Today was playing obviously easier with no wind on the front nine but with the rain you just lose a bit of control and it just makes it a bit harder. I did well to manage the situation and I'm happy with that. I've been leading again, it seems that I'm leading almost every year after one or two rounds here. I'm getting closer and closer. Obviously second is my best finish here, so hopefully I go one better next year."
Stenson admitted to being disappointed at being unable to win. "I am little disappointed to not have better than my B or C game, and I certainly paid the price for a couple of errant tee shots today that led to bogeys but I made almost enough birdies to be out there," he said. "I made seven birdies. I made enough putts and enough birdies but a couple errant shots certainly cost me.
"I started off pretty aggressive. Got it going early. Made four birdies in the first seven holes, and again, I paid the price on nine for a bad tee shot, then made birdie on 11 and 12, and saw Alex was finished on 11 under, which was a phenomenal score to shoot 10 under.
"The crowds are amazing here. I really felt the support and we've had good attendance. BMW is doing a great job for us around the world with their golf tournaments. They are always first class and everyone here at headquarters have been trying hard too."
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