Alex Noren of Sweden won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth yesterday. And how! Beginning the final day seven shots behind the leader, Andrew Dodt, he finished it two clear of Francesco Molinari. This remarkable switcheroo was achieved by the simple means of equalling the course record for the famous West Course: a ten-under-par 62. He’d had eight birdies by the time he reached the final hole, where he hit a 5-iron second shot 225 yards to within four feet of the pin – “it was probably one of the best shots I’ve ever hit” – and duly used his 24th putt of the round to convert that for an eagle. Even the weather was on his side. The rain waited until he was snugly in the clubhouse, watching his wannabe rivals try to catch him and fail, before it poured down.
Noren thereby rises to eighth in the world rankings. “It feels unreal and crazy because I had no intention of trying to win this morning,” he said last night. Well, when you’re so far off the pace and there are a glut of talented players between you and the lead, that’s normal. What he did yesterday was quite remarkable. “I think this tournament compares a lot with a major,”said Noren. “I view this as a very difficult course against a very good field, so this is very close to a major in my mind.”
For Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour, that sort of remark has to be music to the ears. (BTW, Status Quo played a gig after play on Saturday night and the Kaiser Chiefs were on last night, so in that regard the European Tour was rockin’ all over the world even if no one was predicting a riot.) Although Pelley surely has some reservations about his past comment saying that this tournament was not the Tour’s “flagship event”. But then it has had its hassles.
In recent years it has suffered much reduced television coverage on the BBC – now two days of highlights rather than four days of live golf. The redesign of the course by Ernie Els was not popular, but now the changes have been ameliorated and the greens, often a problem in the early spring, are much improved. And I guess Pelley could no longer promote this as the main tour event given that it is now the first of eight tournaments each year that form part of the new Rolex Series, where the purses are guaranteed to be at least €7 million. In addition to the aforementioned rock bands, there were golf-related activities for families to enjoy in the public areas, all of which might help explain why this year 109,684 spectators came through the gates, the second highest attendance in the PGA’s history.
Finally, let it be noted that over in America, the 59-year-old Bernhard Langer won the Senior PGA Championship, making him the first golfer to win all five senior majors. He has now won nine in all, equalling the record of Gary Player. Not bad for a guy who in a previous life – notwithstanding a stellar career which has included two Masters titles – was bedevilled with several versions of the yips.
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