Unheralded Swede Alexander Noren captured his second European Tour title by winning the Wales Open on Sunday, shooting a 1-under 70 for a two-stroke victory.
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The 127th-ranked Noren finished at 9-under 275 at Celtic Manor, where he’d led since the second round. The victory added to his win at the 2009 European Masters.
”It will be weird but I will look forward to it,” he said. ”I can’t believe it still. When the final putt was this far, I knew it was done. It was incredible.”
Noren won’t be able to celebrate for long. He is scheduled to tee off at Sunningdale on Monday in a qualifying tournament for the British Open at Royal St. George’s next month.
Gregory Bourdy of France had a bogey-free 67 to finish joint runner-up with Anders Hansen of Denmark, who had a 71.
Johan Edfors (69) and Peter Hanson (72) of Sweden, Ricardo Gonzalez of Argentina (67) and Pablo Larrazabal of Spain (67) were another stroke back.
Noren acknowledged feeling some tension after entering the third round with a one-stroke lead, then said he expected a tougher task Sunday.
It turned out to be anything but.
Helped by Hanson and Hansen failing to mount a challenge, and Bourdy starting his surge too late, Noren never looked like he would be caught.
Graeme McDowell, the 2010 champion who was aiming to become the first player to retain the title, shot a 71 to improve by 10 strokes on his catastrophic third round. Having trailed by one, he fell 11 shots off the pace heading into his last competitive round before defending his U.S. Open title.
McDowell struck the ball well in making three straight birdies from No. 9, but four bogeys showed his game still needs work.
”The damage was done yesterday and it was just about trying to repair some of the damage today,” McDowell said. ”I have work to do between now and Congressional.”
Elliot Saltman, who returned to the tour last month after serving a three-month ban for incorrectly marking his ball, will leave with happier memories after hitting his second hole-in-one of the tournament in a 69 Sunday.
”There has been a lot of players out here who have been brilliant and welcomed me back,” Saltman said. ”It’s been a long slog.”
The Scot aced No. 17 and then finished with an eagle in Thursday’s opening round. He repeated the feat at the same hole Sunday, but his ensuing eagle putt at the last hole just missed the cup.
Eamonn Darcy at the 1991 Mediterranean Open was the last player to hit a hole-in-one twice in the same event.