Sweden's Alex Noren wins Wales Open at Celtic Manor

By Peter ShuttleworthBBC Sport Wales
Alex Noren
Noren's previous victory was the 2009 European Masters

Alex Noren kept his composure at Celtic Manor to clinch the Wales Open crown.

The steady Swede sealed his second European Tour title by two shots from Frenchman Gregory Bourdy and Dane Anders Hansen.

Noren dropped just one shot in a consistent one-under-par final round to finish on nine under for the tournament.

The 28-year-old will now head to Sunningdale for Monday's qualifying for the 2011 Open at Royal St George's.

Noren had led the £1.8m tournament since the halfway stage and the world number 127 gained just one more shot over the weekend, as his rivals faded in the tough south Wales conditions, to take the £300,000 first prize.

The business marketing graduate from Stockholm birdied the 4th after watching playing partner Hansen - one behind at the start - run up a double-bogey seven on the long 2nd.

Noren followed his birdie with seven successive pars and he took a giant step towards the title with a birdie at the 12th.

The only blot an otherwise impeccable round was at the 377-yard 15th when Noren's attempt to find the green with a three-wood kicked off the bank and into the hazard on the left.

But a bogey five was not enough to halt his commanding march as Noren held off flawless Frenchman Bourdy to become the fourth Scandinavian player to win the Wales Open.

The victory completed a dream week for Noren that began with him qualifying for the US Open - his first ever major in America.

But he will not be able to enjoy his celebratory champagne as Noren must play another 36 holes on Monday at Sunningdale at the international final qualifying for next month's Open Championship.

"It will be weird, but I will look forward to it," he said.

"My driving has been the best it's ever been. I never really believed I could do well on tough courses, but now we play them all the time.

"I've proved to myself I can hit a lot of greens and not just rely on my short game."

Noren was one of a few players to cope with the swirling Usk Valley wind and occasional drizzle on the Twenty Ten course and only 18 platyers completed the four rounds under par.

And a revived Bourdy enjoyed the rare feat this week of completing a round without dropping a shot as the 29-year-old from Bordeaux became Noren's biggest threat.

Three of Bourdy's four birdies were on the final eight holes - including a stunning birdie on the 18th - as he ended tied second with Hansen on seven-under, a shot ahead of Johan Edfors, Ricardo Gonzalez, Peter Hanson and Pablo Larrazabal.

Jamie Donaldson finsihed in a four-way tie for eighth place on four under par after a round marred by double bogeys at the 1st and 12th.

Elliot Saltman, banned for three months in January over his ball-marking, also ended on four-under, the Scot scoring a second hole in one at the par-three 17th to add to the one he achieved in the first round.

It was the first time a double had happened on the European Tour since Eamonn Darcy during the 1991 Mediterranean Open at the Esterel course in France.

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