Noren excited about becoming a major contender
After winning the 2017 BMW PGA Championship in sensational style Sweden’s Alex Noren is ready to transfer his remarkable form on the European Tour to the major stage atThe 146th Open.
The 34-year-old struck eight birdies and an 18th hole eagle in his final round course record 10-under-par 62, setting a Wentworth clubhouse target of 11-under, a feat no-one else in the field could match.
Now ranked eighth in the world, the win was his fifth in his last 22 starts and the most prestigious of his career.
It also sets him up to contend in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills and The Open at Royal Birkdale.
“I think this tournament in my mind compares a lot with a major,” Noren said after his astonishing triumph. “What I have wanted to do is play better against better fields and on better, tougher courses, and I view this as a very difficult course against a very tough field.
“So this is very close to a major in my mind and my confidence goes up. That's what I've always needed, to believe in myself, and then it's easier to focus on what you need to do.”
Four of his nine European Tour wins have come in the United Kingdom, giving Noren’s chances of lifting the Claret Jug a timely boost ahead of The Open in July.
“I've always liked British golf courses,” he said. “You've got great links, you've got great parkland. The crowds are always cheering for all the players. You guys like great golf. It doesn't matter where they come from. It’s fantastic.
“For some reason, I've always had a lot of support from the British. I’ve felt that compared to maybe other places.”
His recent run of five wins started at last year’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart. One week later his compatriot Henrik Stenson became the first Swedish winner of The Open and both men travel from London to Malmo this week for the Nordea Masters, which will be a celebration of recent Swedish golfing success.
It seems sure to motivate Noren to push on and if he needs more incentive to be excited about his Open chances a glance at the record books might help.
The Open has previously provided Noren’s only major championship top ten finish to date – a tied for ninth place at Royal Lytham & St Annes in 2012
And the last time Royal Birkdale hosted The Open in 2008, Noren, on his debut, headed into the final round in fifth position, finishing a creditable T19th overall.
For the reigning Champion Golfer of the Year Stenson, this year’s BMW PGA Championship witnessed a continuation of a return to form. He missed four straight cuts prior to THE PLAYERS Championship where he finished T16th.
He improved on that to place tied third at Wentworth, three back of Noren.
“There was certainly some good stuff in there for sure,” Stenson said after the result, his best at the tournament in 12 visits. “But I'm not playing good, too many unforced errors. I just need to get a little bit of stability and confidence in the long game back, and hopefully we're not too far away.”
Tied third alongside Stenson on the West Course was Japan’s Hideto Tanihara who is enjoying a fine 2017. He finished fourth in the WGC World Match Play Championship and currently lies eight on the Race to Dubai.
Tanihara was tied fifth behind Tiger Woods in the 2006 Championship at Royal Liverpool, but has missed the cut in each of his other four appearances at The Open, including Royal Birkdale in 2008.
But Noren’s brilliance was the story of the week and Stenson was left in no doubt. “If he keeps playing like that,” he said, “it’s hard to look at Alex and not see him winning a major in the very near future.”