Noren wins in Wales

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Swede Alexander Noren kept his cool to take his second European Tour title at Celtic Manor on Sunday.

Swede Alexander Noren kept his cool to take his second European Tour title at Celtic Manor on Sunday.

The 28-year-old needed only a final-round 70 to finish on a nine-under-par aggregate of 275 and claim victory by two shots in the Saab Wales Open.

Frenchman Gregory Bourdy and Dane Anders Hansen shared second place on seven under, while four players finished in a tie for fourth one shot further back – Swedes Peter Hanson and Johan Edfors, Argentine Ricardo Gonzales and Dane Anders Hansen.

Noren adds this victory to his 2009 Omega European Masters win, and he needed only a solid but unspectacular round to do it, unlike in Switzerland two years ago, where an eagle out of a bunker sealed the deal four shots from the end.

Noren’s closing 70 featured only two birdies and a lone dropped shot, which came on the driveable 15th, as he went for the green with a three-wood only to see his shot go left and kick down a bank into a hazard.

That bogey reduced his lead from three shots at the time to only two, but pars on the last three holes proved enough to secure the victory.

It’s been a good week for Noren – on Monday he qualified for his first-ever US Open at Walton Heath, and now he pockets a £300,000 winning cheque for his efforts at Celtic Manor.

He’ll barely have any time to savour the victory before heading to Sunningdale on Monday to try and qualify for the Open as well.

“It will be weird, but I will look forward to it,” he said.

“My driving has been the best it’s ever been. I never really believed I could do well on tough courses, but now we play them all the time.

“I’ve proved to myself I can hit a lot of greens and not just rely on my short game.”

His name will be added to Graeme McDowell’s on the trophy, the Northern Irishman having won the event last year. Noren will be hoping that proves some sort of omen, as McDowell went on to win the US open directly after his Wales Open victory.

McDowell looked odds on to defend his title at one stage in the week as well, as he lurked ominously behind Noren in second place at the halfway mark, but his challenge imploded in dramatic fashion on Saturday as he carded a nightmare 81 that left him well off the pace. Though he improved by a full ten strokes on Sunday, it was still only good enough to lift him to 30th place.

“The damage was done yesterday, and today was about trying to go out and repair some of the damage,” siad McDowell.

“I played quite nicely today. I struck the ball well. I had a disappointing finish (he bogeyed the 18th), but generally hit the ball good.

“Yesterday, was my golf tournament done.

“I am not disturbed about my game in any shape or form. My game is in good shape, it’s firing on all cylinders.

“Of course, I have work to do between now and Congressional, but yesterday was just a bit of an anomaly. I lost the feel of my swing a little bit.

“They were tough conditions out there today, windy and wet early on, and I hit some nice shots.”

The Saab Wales Open was also a memorable one for Elliot Saltman, who achieved the rare feat of two aces on the same hole in the same tournament.

Saltman scored a hole-in-one at the 211-yard 17th on Thursday, and then did the same again on Sunday.

“I’m just overwhelmed with it – amazing,” said Saltman, playing in his fifth event since returning from his suspension.

“I hit a great seven-iron, it bounced once and in she pops. I’m so excited.”

Sadly for Saltman, a Saab car for a hole-in-one was only on offer at the 13th hole.

He received two magnums of champagne and a night in the resort’s presidential suite worth £1,500 instead.

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