The first event of the Rolex Series had seen glorious conditions and bumper crowds in Surrey and the elite field was poised for a scintillating battle on the final day.
Alex Noren won the first ever Rolex Series event as a stunning closing 62 handed him a two-shot victory at the BMW PGA Championship. He entered Sunday seven shots off the lead but eight birdies in his first 16 holes had him in a tie for top spot before he produced one of the great moments on Wentworth Club’s famous 18th. He put his second shot to six feet to send the bumper crowd into raptures and the resulting eagle putt handed him a two-shot lead and piled the pressure on the chasing pack. When Noren made that closing eagle, he broke out of a four-way tie for the lead alongside overnight leader Andrew Dodt, South African Branden Grace and Ireland’s Shane Lowry, with all three men having enough holes left to overturn his lead.
With the changes made to the West Course, the lowest round this week was always destined to be the course record but Noren’s closing effort also equals the lowest round in any of the layout’s guises and is the lowest final round ever on the course. The 62 is also Noren’s joint-lowest round on Tour and was reminiscent of last season’s Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player where he finished with a 63 to win a fourth event of 2016.
After three days of glorious sunshine on the revamped West Course, heavy rain began to fall as the final groups made the turn and nobody could stop Noren claiming an ultimately convincing ninth European Tour victory. Italy’s Francesco Molinari had a birdie-birdie finish to emerge as the closest challenger, with Open champion Henrik Stenson, Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and Japanese Hideto Tanihara finishing at eight under.
“It feels amazing and crazy because I had no intention of trying to win this morning,” said Noren. “I didn’t even think about it when I came off the course quite angry yesterday after playing a good round and chipping it into the water from the back of the green on 18. It’s a great feeling now but it feels unreal. It’s a tough course mentally coming down the stretch. It’s not super narrow but it’s just if you hit it a little bit wayward it can cost you. I putted probably the best I’ve ever putted. This tournament in my mind compares a lot with a Major. The only thing I’ve wanted to do is play better against tougher fields and tougher courses and I view this as a very difficult course against a top field”.
“That’s what I’ve always needed, to believe in myself, then it’s easier to focus on what you need to do.” ETC/PPH