The incredible rise of Alex Noren: From 108th four months ago to now in the top 10 of the world
Alex Noren's blistering 63 in the final round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge made him a winner for the fourth time this season.
He has vaulted right into the fray for the Race to Dubai title with his latest victory. Until last week, it was three contenders in the form of Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy and Danny Willett but Alex Noren had his own ideas on Sunday.
“I've tried to get in this tournament for so many years, and when I got in here, ending up winning, it feels unbelievable,” said Noren who actually played with fellow Swedish countryman Henrik Stenson on Sunday.
“It was nice,” said Noren. “I haven't played with him in the last five years I think. I haven't been on the same schedule. You can talk a bit of Swedish, and I know him well. It's great.”
He collected his 8th win on the European tour and 9th win worldwide and also his 4th of the season. The Swede who is ranked in the top 10 of the world for the first time resides in Monaco where he also practices in his weeks off.
Noren went to Oklahoma State University which is famous for churning out world class athletes and not just golfers.
He went on to turn professional in 2005 and claimed a a place on the European Challenge Tour after reaching the final stage of the European Tour qualifying schoool. His maiden victory came at the Rolex Trophy and he graduated to the European Tour the following year as he ended his rookie professional campaign ranked 3rd on the Challenge Tour.
Noren won his first title on the European Tour in September 2009 at the Omega European Masters and ended his rookie season placed 25th on the order of merit.
He went on to secure his second win in June 2011 at the Saab Wales Open and the following month, he went wire-to-wire at the Nordea Masters in his home country of Sweden.
Alex had average 2012 and 2013 seasons recording tied-3rd finsishes as his best finishes. He missed almost entire of the 2014 season barring two events.
He came back from injury in January 2015 and won in June for his fourth ET vicory at his home event of the Nordea Masters which he captured for the second time.
He won four times in his first 215 starts but has gone on to taste victory four times in his past eleven starts.
Noren’s outstanding form this season with eight top ten finishes including four wins and a runner up finish in his last eighteen events continues to surprise everyone.
Noren said last week that he feels this is his best season not only winning wise but also playing wise which he attributes to added consistency in hitting the ball straighter for weeks at a stretch. He says having a baby at the start of the year helped him take his mind of Golf and it has been beneficial for him because he has had something else to focus on.
He says that his success in 2016 is also down to a new approach of playing more “actual” golf than just beating balls on the range. He has been trying to get his game more well rounded which has led to added practice with the wedges and more time being spent on the short game.
In the process, he has found himself €3,053,682 richer since his first win of the season at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. His momentum carried him to the Omega European Masters before he added another title in the form of the British Masters at the Grove in mid October.
Noren beat Jeunghun Wang for the title at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, this week by six strokes despite shooting a dissapointing 75 in the third round.
He started the day with a six shot deficit which is the largest margin any player has overcome to win this season and he ended the tournament winning by six shots which is equavalent of the largest winning margin on the European Tour.
“Yesterday was a bit tough and my game wasn't really there,” said Noren of the Saturday 75. “Worked some in the room, tried to get the right feelings for today and it clicked. I don't think I've ever played as good, especially on the greens.
Noren got to 9 under through 11 holes carding 6 birdies on the front nine. He looked like he was going to give 59 a genuine run but his bogey on the 14th ended those hopes. Nevertheless, he shot a 9-under-par 63 which gave him the title without facing any pressure coming down the stretch.
“Obviously with a win comes a lot of confidence, and yeah, I'm just trying to keep improving and ... I played with Louis (Oosthuizen) yesterday, and (Branden) Grace and Stenson today. You know, you look at them and I wish I could hit a few shots that they can hit and maybe I'm not as good and I try to keep improving on that.”
Noren is now by all accounts, a valid contender for the race to Dubai title which concludes next week at the DP World Tour championship in Dubai. He's in third position and is playing catch up only to Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett.
He can win the title with a win at the final tournament of the season and Henrik Stenson not finishing second. He can also win the title if he finishes second but Henrik Stenson finishes outside the top eight and Danny Willett outside the top two.
“Obviously it's been the season of my life, and just try to -- my caddie helps a lot, trying to stay patient with me and trying to keep me patient and hit the right shots at the right times. I owe a lot to him, yeah. It's going to be great,” said Noren of the trip to Dubai next week. “My family is coming down. It's going to be fantastic.”
Rory McIlroy has now become the long shot for the play-offs win with him now playing for the incentive of becoming world number 1 once again and replacing Jason Day at the helm with a victory at the DP World Tour Championship.
It's safe to say you can rest assured putting your money on a Swedish golfer taking home the $1.5 million bonus prize this weekend in Dubai.
Will it be Alex Noren or Henrik Stenson? That's a question nobody knows the answer to, given the purple patch of form Alex Noren has struck and Henrik Stenson's major championship winning campaign yet to come to an end.