From couldn't win to can't stop winning: The Alex Noren story
Man-of-the-moment Alex Noren now has six wins in the past two years following his victory at Le Golf National, a course he will very likely return to in September.
Mark Townsend takes a closer look at some major talking points in the Swede’s career that you may have missed…
1. Winless at college
Noren attended Oklahoma State University where he majored in marketing and was a team-mate of Hunter Mahan. His coach Mike Holder described him as “one of the more talented players we had, with tons of potential, but he just couldn’t get out of his own way.”
He turned pro in 2005 and graduated from the Challenge Tour at the first attempt.
2. A winner on Tour
His first win came at Crans in 2009 when weekend efforts of 63-66 gave him a two-shot win over Bradley Dredge at 20 under. The top three in the world then were Tiger Woods, Steve Stricker and Phil Mickelson.
The win moved Noren to 71st in the world – the highest he has been is 8th, and is projected to move to 14th after the win in France.
3. Those hands..
In a blog with the European Tour Noren explained that his battered hands are as much to do with his technique as it is his work ethic.
“I’ve always had calluses. It’s partly down to hitting a lot of balls, but I’ve always thought my grip slides in the swing a little bit, which isn’t a good thing. People say you must work hard, and I say that I do, but my club also slides around. “Even my coach says ‘you must be sliding, because it’s not good to look like that!’ Your hands also get dirty on a range session, so that picture Kristoffer Broberg took a couple of years ago and posted on social media looks a little worse!”
4. Those injuries
In 2014 Noren hit so many balls that he developed tendonitis in his wrists and he was only able to play twice that year, his season coming to a close with a withdrawal at Wentworth in May.
“I had surgery on two places in my wrist. I tried to play after two weeks and it just got very inflamed and wouldn’t go away. I had to take injections but that didn’t help and then the only thing was to really rest it,” he explained at the start of 2015.
“I was worried that every week or two weeks I tried, and nothing got better. I was pretty unsure even two months ago if I was going to play again this early, it’s tough when you don’t know if the hand is holding up.”
The course he has now joined in Sweden doesn’t actually set up for him to beat balls all day.
“I’ve tried to play a lot more golf off tournaments. I joined a golf club with no practice range which is fantastic. I play every morning, and you can skip around there in two and a half hours.”
5. A change in approach
In 2016 Noren became a dad for the first time and he ended the year with an incredible four wins in 11 starts.
“Since we had our baby I’ve looked at golf a little bit not as serious as before. And it’s helped me. I mean, I made a double and it doesn’t hurt as much as it did perhaps last year. That’s the biggest change for me. So I feel like my score is not as much in my feelings in the evenings any more. That helps.”
6. The Ryder Cup
The wins came too late to force his way into Darren Clarke’s side at Hazeltine but he was sat in front of his TV two years ago.
“It’s an extraordinary event. You don’t see the guys that pumped up at any other golf event, so it looks like the coolest tournament you can play in. I got the goose bumps this year when Rory made his putt against Reed. It affected me a lot and you can see how much it means. It’s about so much more than yourself when you’re playing in a team and I think that brings an extra dimension to it.”
7. Not afraid to go low
Noren kicked off the Rolex Series with a closing course-record 62 at Wentworth to win the PGA last year.
The 10-under effort was signed off with an eagle three to move from 20th at the start of the day to claiming his biggest victory.
“I feel a lot more nervous when I’m shooting high than when I’m shooting low and I think some players maybe feel the opposite and they don’t maybe care when they shoot high. But I’ve always cared when I shoot high and not care as much when I shoot low.”
When he won the Nedbank two years ago he posted a final-round 63 to cruise home by six shots.
8. That pre-shot swing
We did an instruction shoot in Portugal a few years ago and, like most players, he likes to keep things simple.
As you might expect he’s as quality an individual as he is a player, always happy to help and particularly modest.
“I have always found it easier to hit a draw so I work a lot on fades. I have a lot of practice swings; I do the swish across the body, which is an over-exaggeration of what I’m trying to produce in my swing.
“If it is going wrong I really go back to the basics and square up the body to make sure everything is aligned. I have a tendency to open up my shoulders and close the feet so I will open the feet and close the shoulders so I can start the swing from a good position.
“I used to think there was something wrong in my swing but I normally just need to square up. I don’t really like looking at my swing, but sometimes I do and in two years I’d like it to look simpler and shorter.”
Take a look at his swing here.
9. Not yet a major force
It hasn’t really happened in the big ones yet for Noren but he has now seemingly cracked how to compete on the PGA Tour having lost that six-hole play-off with Jason Day before third-place finishes at the Honda and WGC Match Play.
“My goal coming into the season was to feel comfortable, just to be able to play with these guys on these courses, and prove to myself that I can do it and I’m just going to try to get that win.”
If you’re looking for a nice sign ahead of Carnoustie then Noren broke the then course record there with a 64 in the Dunhill in 2016.
10. More Swede success
Should Noren make his Ryder Cup debut in France he will become the 10th Swede to represent Europe.
The first nine, in alphabetical order, were Niclas Fasth, Pierre Fulke, Joakim Haeggman, Peter Hanson, Per-Ulrik Johansson, Robert Karlsson, Jesper Parnevik, Jarmo Sandelin and Henrik Stenson.
He is now one win behind Karlsson and Stenson (11) for all-time victories on the European Tour.