Alex Noren birdied two of his final three holes at Le Golf National to claim his first win of the season at the HNA Open de France.
Entering the day seven shots off the pace, the Swede turned in 34 to remain well behind a handful on the leaderboard. But as 54-hole leader Marcus Kinhult was struggling to start his Sunday round, Noren quietly carded birdies on Nos. 12, 16, and 18 to reach 7-under par, two shots back of then leader Julian Suri.
A nice score, but, surely, Noren’s 7 under wouldn’t hold up – not with Suri at 9 under, or stars like Rahm at 8 under or Garcia at 6 under, all with seven-plus holes to go, right? Wrong.
One by one they fell by the wayside.
Rahm ended his day with a triple on the 12th; Garcia joined his compatriot with back-to-back bogeys on 12 and 13. Kinhult then officially killed his chances with a bogey-par-double bogey stretch on Nos. 13-15.
The American Suri joined the carnage with a bogey on the par-4 15th and, while holding a one-shot advantage, then dunked his ball in the water on his approach to 18, leading to a double bogey. The three late lost shots sent Suri home with a co-runner-up finish, alongside Russell Knox who sizzled on Sunday with a 65 to claim one of the four tickets to Carnoustie.
Also at T2 was Chris Wood, who was in the final pairing with Kinhult, and was the last man standing between Noren and victory.
The long-bombing Englishman was even-par on the day and clinging to the lead at 8-under par through 14 holes. But like Suri, and Kinhlt before him, Wood collapsed under the bright lights, carding bogeys on Nos. 15 and 17 to drop to 6 under.
A final-hole par by Wood handed Noren his second Rolex Series title in 13 months.
“When you’re out there you really want this win and it felt unbelievable to get it today,” said Noren.
“It’s what I was putting and practicing for, maybe a play-off, it was unreal how it went and I didn’t expect that.”
Kinhult signed for a closing 76 to finish at 5 under alongside Spaniard Jon Rahm (72) and England’s Matthew Southgate (65), one clear of world No. 2 Justin Thomas (71), Swede Alexander Björk (70) and Spanish duo Jorge Campillo (66) and Sergio Garcia (74) who finished three shots off the lead at 4 under.
The win was Noren’s 10th on the European Tour, and should lock him in as a member of the 2018 European Ryder Cup team, especially since it’s being contested at Le Golf National.
“If I would be on the team it would mean a lot,” said Noren, who despite 10 career wins – seven since 2015, has never made a Ryder Cup team.
“You get good memories from here. The first two years I came here I thought I could never win around here and the last three years I’ve had good results. It helps a lot.”
His winning share was worth $1,166,000 and just as many RTD points. He is projected to move to No. 14, from 16, in the Official World Golf Rankings.
FINAL TOP 10
POS-PLAYER-FINAL SCORE(FINAL ROUND)
1. Alexander Noren -7 (-4)
2. Russell Knox -6 (-6)
2. Julian Suri -6 (-2)
2. Chris Wood -6 (+2)
5. Matthew Southgate -5 (-6)
5. Jon Rahm -5 (+1)
5. Marcus Kinhult -5 (+5)
8. Jorge Campillo -4 (-5)
8. Alexander Bjork -4 (-1)
8. Justin Thomas -4 (E)
8. Sergio Garcia -4 (+3)
1st – $1,166,000 (Noren)
T2 – $521,990 each (Knox, Suri, Wood)
T5 – $250,600 each (Rahm, Kinhult, Southgate)
T8 – $150,150 each (Thomas, Bjork, Campillo, Garcia)
1. Bradley Dredge -4
2. Graeme McDowell -3
2. Andy Sullivan -3
42. Alex Noren +2
1. Marcus Kinhult -6 (71-65)
2. Chris Wood -4 (70-68)
3. Jon Rahm -3 (70-69)
3. Bradley Dredge -3 (67-72)
41. Alex Noren +3 (73-72)
1. Marcus Kinhult -10 (71-65-67)
2. Chris Wood -8 (70-68-67)
3. Sergio Garcia -7 (72-70-64)
7. Alex Noren -3 (73-72-65)
Driving Distance: 287.00 yards (35th)
Fairways-Hit: 42/56, 75.0% (2nd)
Greens-Hit: 54/72, 75.0% (5th)
Putts/GIR: 95/1.751 (33rd)
Par-3 Scoring: -3 (3 Birdies, 13 Pars)
Par-4 Scoring: +1 (9 Birdies, 27 Pars, 8 Bogeys, 1 Double Bogey)
Par-5 Scoring: -5 (5 Birdies, 7 Pars)
Total Scoring: -7 (17 Birdies, 47 Pars, 8 Bogeys, 1 Double Bogey)
VIDEO: SHOT OF THE DAY
After seeing playing partner, Julian Suri, basically lose the tournament by dunking his approach in the water on 18, Justin Thomas nearly did the same with a too-hot second shot. But JT’s Titleist rolled off the green and found the only sliver of property that wasn’t water – a bridge that connects the island green.
Playing with house money now, Thomas nearly holed his third for bird off the fake carpet.
PHOTO: THE WINNING SELFIE
“When you’re out there you really want this win and it felt unbelievable to get it today.”
– Alex Noren