Noren upbeat for Wales

Alex Noren must be hoping his winning performance in Monday’s US Open qualifier at Walton Heath can be carried forward to the ISPS Handa Wales Open at Celtic Manor at the weekend.

After a magnificent run last year that included two wins, one of them in the Wales Open, the 29-year-old defending champion has been having a sluggish, up and down season this year and besides back-to back top-10 finishes in Asia in the Volvo China Open and the Ballantine’s Championship, has done very little else of note.

On Monday the Swede bagged one of the 11 places up for grabs at next month’s US Open when he shot rounds of 67 and 68 for a 30-hole 9-under that tied him for first with Scot Marc Warren and apart from the joy of knowing he will be playing in the season’s second major in San Francisco next month, his effort will have helped re instill some of his missing confidence and take him back to Wales feeling he is ready to win again.

Prior to Monday he had hoped that the good memories he still had of his victory at Celtic Manor last year would help him break out of his current slump.

He said then in an interview with the media, “I’d had a tough time on that course before, but I need not have worried. Last year everything felt really great and I played very well.

“I was excellent from tee to green. All the memories and the things you look back on when you recall a win come to mind and make you feel good. It’s going to be really fun to go back there this year.

“I was so pleased with how I drove the ball and hit the irons. I really felt like an improved player and it was a nice feeling going head to head with Anders Hansen, who is world-class. I’ve always looked up to him and admired his game, so to go up against him on the last day and beat him was a truly great feeling.”

Now with that Monday qualifying win under his belt, Noren should feel even better heading for Celtic Manor’s Twenty Ten Ryder Cup course which could well be a springboard back in his bid to make Jose Maria Olazabal’s 2012 Ryder Cup team.

“Last year I thought about The 2010 Ryder Cup a lot,” said Noren, who has yet to earn a first European cap. “:When you see a course on TV and see what the players do, you naturally think about it when you play it. You remember what happened on different holes and the tough shots the players made. It makes you think about the difficult putts they made to win, and you think to yourself ‘I’m going to try to make a putt like that’.

“It’s a tough course and you don’t make too many birdies. My winning score was nine under, which is not that low. You need to play conservatively.”

Noren admits that making this year’s Ryder Cup will be a tough task.

“With only three months left to qualify, I’ll need to play super well from here on in. I’ll have to start winning.

“I’m playing okay. It was nice to play well in Asia two weeks running and my game is a lot better than it was at the start of the year

“I feel a lot better, physically and mentally, though I still need to improve a bit. There’s not a lot of work to do, but it’s just a question of keeping at it and maybe practicing less every day. We’re working on it.”

Seems so. His victory at Walton Heath on Monday made that clear.

Some of Europe best golfers won’t be playing at Celtic Manor this week

The likes of World No 1 Luke Donald, Rory McIroy and Justin Rose will all be away in the USA bidding to win the coveted Me memorial trophy at the Muirfield Village golf estate that Jack (Nicklaus) built, but Noren certainly won’t be without worthwhile opposition.

He can be sure of that.

With men of the calibre of the Molinaris brothers Francisco and Edoardo, their fellow Italian countryman Matteo Manassero, Spain’s Miguel Angel Jimenez and Pablo Larrazabal, England’s Ross Fisher, Tom Lewis and Danny Willet, Scots Richie Ramsay and Paul Lawrie, Welshmen Rhys Davies and Bradley Dredge and South Africans like Monday’s US Open qualifier George Coetzee and Jbe Kruger in the field, there will be plenty of that.

No one is going to walk away from Celtic Manor without making a fight of it