Bunker magic gives Noren first title

Alex Noren grabbed his maiden European Tour title in Switzerland – and there is no doubt which shot he will remember most.

Alex Noren grabbed his maiden European Tour title in Switzerland on Sunday – and there is no doubt which shot he will remember most.
In the first qualifying event for next year’s Ryder Cup, the 27-year-old Swede holed a difficult bunker shot for an eagle three at the long 15th and that, in the end, is what secured the Omega European Masters title.
It helped Noren to a two-stroke victory over Welshman Bradley Dredge, the 2006 winner, in front of a crowd which included the second man on the moon, Buzz Aldrin.
A first prize of just over £292,000 – and the same number of cup points – was achieved with a closing round of 66 and 20-under-par total of 264.
It more than doubled his earnings for a season interrupted by wrist and then knee injuries.
Noren entered the week only 88th on the European money list and 130th in the world but has long been viewed as ‘one to watch’ – and now Europe’s captain Colin Montgomerie will see whether he can build on this.
A week ago, the Scot revealed he had written down his “dream team” and admitted some uncapped players were on the list. Noren’s name was almost certainly not among them, though.
Dredge, desperate to make a debut on home soil next year, will have reminded Montgomerie of what he can do as well – after crashing to 256th in the world from 46th.
“It was a fun battle, and Alex produced a great shot on the 15th – so congratulations to him,” said Dredge, after a 65 that included a 63-yard pitch-in for eagle on the long ninth as he drew level from four behind.
Noren said: “I was so happy when that bunker shot went in. I’ve never felt this good about my game, and to win was just brilliant.”
As for being the first leader in the Ryder Cup race, he added: “Now I will just have to stay there!”
England’s Ross McGowan, also round in 65, was third – and Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez fourth – while the low score of the day was a 64 from 20-year-old Rory McIlroy, last year’s play-off loser.
With an eagle and eight birdies, he had climbed from 34th to third standing on the final tee but was put off by a photographer and by bogeying the hole, he finished in a tie for seventh.
McIlroy had to win to go top of the European money, list but still has a great chance to finish the season number one, especially as Martin Kaymer and Paul Casey, the two players ahead of him, are both currently out injured.
Lee Westwood, fourth on the table, closed with a 66 for 23rd place – along with 16-year-old Italian amateur Matteo Manassero, the youngest-ever British Amateur champion and 13th at The Open in July.
Westwood now has the chance to improve his chances of the Order of Merit crown, however. He moves on to Cologne, while McIlroy has chosen to go to Korea for an event there.
Noren, two ahead when he resumed, went four clear when he began with two birdies – while South African Charl Schwartzel, second overnight, three-putted both greens for bogeys.
The gap was the same after seven, but Noren bogeyed the short eighth and then Dredge began his charge.
When Dredge bogeyed the 12th and Noren the 13th, however, McGowan came into the picture. But he failed to birdie the two par-fives on the back nine.
And that was that.