Alex Noren was not aiming high at the start of the final round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City on Sunday, but he was over the moon after a phenomenal nine-under-par round of 63 earned him a dazzling six-shot victory at Gary Player Country Club.
In the 36 editions of the Nedbank Golf Challenge, only two other golfers – Sergio Garcia (2001) and Ernie Els (2002) – have shot 63 in the final round to win and it’s fair to say the course was much easier back then.
The 34-year-old Swede started the day six strokes behind leader Jeunghun Wang, who had fired a wonderful 64 in incredibly tough conditions on the third day and seemed to already have one hand on the famous crystal trophy.
But Noren produced a magnificent front nine, that featured six birdies, and then eagled the 10th and birdied 11 to rocket into the lead, nine-under through 11 holes and playing golf that was simply out of this world.
“Honestly, I thought I had no chance at the start of the round, this is a really tricky course and the leader had shot 64 yesterday which was like 59 today.
“So I just wanted to get a good round in before the World Tour Championship in Dubai next week, to have a good positive feeling going there, work on my swing a bit. Anything under par I would have been happy,” Noren said after his fourth victory in his last 11 tournaments.
But after starting with three straight birdies he then also picked up a shot on the fifth and then sank a 30-foot putt for another birdie on the par-three seventh; two behind Wang, he started to believe.
“I was a bit nervous at the start, I didn’t feel on top of my game but something happened and after seven holes I started to realise that I must believe in myself that I can win. My putter was very hot and I got a lot more excited,” Noren said.
The 21-year-old Wang initially held things together well and was not going away as he birdied the ninth to draw level with Noren. But he could only muster one more birdie on the back nine and, with his tee-shots going ever more off-target, he was undone by four bogeys coming in, having to settle for second place.
Louis Oosthuizen, three off the lead at the start of the day, just could not get going on Sunday and double-bogeyed the par-three seventh after finding the greenside bunker to fall off the pace. He birdied the 10th and 15th holes, but there were more dropped shots on the last three holes as he finished ninth, nine behind Noren.
Andy Sullivan shot a level-par 72 on Sunday to finish on seven-under, tied for third with leading South African Branden Grace (70), Spaniard Alejandro Canizares (68), Frenchman Victor Dubuisson (68) and Portugal’s Ricardo Gouveia (67).
Henrik Stenson shot a 70 to finish eighth on six-under and will be going to the Race to Dubai finale in Dubai this week on top of the order of merit, but with Danny Willett and Noren still able to catch him.