British Masters 2016
Round 4 - Alex Noren wins third title of year
October 17, 2016
Alex Noren of Sweden held his nerve at the British Masters on Sunday to claim a third European Tour title in his last eight tournaments.
Noren carded a final round of 69 at The Grove to finish on 18-under 266, two shots ahead of Bernd Wiesberger (67), with Lee Westwood (67) a shot further back in third.
Ranked 110th after missing the cut in the Irish Open in May, Noren will be 18th in Monday's updated standings after adding Sunday's triumph - and the first prize of 500,000 pounds ($608,000) - to victories in the Scottish Open and European Masters.
''I just worked quite hard and sometimes you get lucky like this,'' Noren said. ''You have to hit the right shots at the right times and I'm very happy. I believe in myself, but the big thing is you don't have to play a perfect game.
''Just a few parts of your game need to be strong to get a win and I try to stay humble. I know golf is a tough game.''
Noren, whose win made certain of a Masters debut at Augusta in April, took a three-shot lead into the final round and birdied the first two holes, only for playing partner Richard Bland to do likewise.
Bland's bogey on the seventh left Noren four clear, but the Swede then bogeyed the eighth as Bland, who tied for fourth, holed from 50 feet across the green for an unlikely birdie.
Noren's lead was down to a single shot when he bogeyed the 11th and he did superbly to save par on the next - thanks to a brilliant recovery shot from the trees.
Wiesberger of Austria briefly joined Noren at the top of the leaderboard with a birdie on the par-five 15th, only for Noren to do likewise from a near-identical position in the group behind.
With Wiesberger unable to birdie the 18th, Noren knew all he needed was a par to win, but a superb pitch to two feet set up a birdie to cap off a brilliant run of form.
''Unfortunately this was not quite my week on the greens, but to finish well in a strong field like this helps going into the final couple of events this year,'' Wiesberger said.
''I would have loved to squeeze another birdie in there, give him something to think about coming up the last. But I'm still very happy with my performance.''
Round 3 - Alex Noren moves three clear
October 16, 2016
Alex Noren of Sweden moved in sight of a third European Tour title this year after shooting a second straight 6-under 65 to take a three-stroke lead at the British Masters heading into the final round.
Noren, who has also won the Scottish Open and the European Masters over the past four months, was on 16 under par after finishing his third round Saturday by holing a 45-foot birdie putt.
''It was an amazing feeling because I thought it was a tough putt,'' Noren said. ''You can easily three-putt that and come off with a sour taste in your mouth.''
Richard Bland, who held a one-shot lead after the second round, shot 69 and is alone in second place as the 43-year-old Englishman goes in search of his first victory on the European Tour.
Bland stretched his lead to two shots thanks to birdies on the first two holes, but dropped his first shot of the week on the fourth after finding sand off the tee. Bland birdied the last hole, but not in nearly the same style as Noren.
''You're thinking you might actually get two back on him,'' Bland said about Noren's putt on No. 18. ''He had a really tricky first putt, one you would probably three-putt more than most. Fair play to him, he holes it. That's one of those where you've just got to say 'Well done' and come back fighting tomorrow.''
Peter Hanson (66), Tommy Fleetwood (68), Bernd Wiesberger (67) and Richard Sterne (67) were tied for third on 12 under and Lee Westwood was a shot further back after a 67, giving the former top-ranked player a chance to end a tough few weeks on a high.
Westwood failed to win any of his three matches at the Ryder Cup as Europe lost 17-11 to the United States, before missing the cut at last week's Dunhill Links Championship mainly thanks to a second-round 82.
Round 2 - Richard Bland edges ahead
October 15, 2016
Richard Bland rolled in six birdies in his last nine holes to shoot a 7-under 64 in the second round of the British Masters on Friday, earning the Englishman a one-stroke lead as he goes in search of his first European Tour victory.
Bland shot the lowest round of the day to move to 11 under par and overtake Alexander Noren and Andrew Johnston, who as playing partners shot 65s in the morning at The Grove course just north of London.
The closest Bland has come to winning in 400 appearances on tour was in 2002, when he was second at the Irish Open. He also has two third-place finishes in his 20-year professional career and has been in solid form this year with six top-10 finishes - three in his last five events - and just two missed cuts.
''It's by far the best year of my career and there is so much more still to play for,'' said the 127th-ranked Bland. ''Suddenly, you start thinking about your world ranking and the possibility of playing in some majors next year.
''I want to keep the foot down and make it an unbelievable year and to win here would be a huge honor.''
Noren, who is seeking a third European Tour title in 2016 after winning the Scottish Open and the European Masters, was 8 under for his round before running up a double-bogey on his last hole, No. 9. Johnston recorded his eighth birdie of the round on that hole to briefly tie for the lead.
The bearded Johnston, also known by his nickname of ''Beef,'' has become a cult figure on the European Tour and would be a popular winner of the British Masters, which is in its second year back on the schedule.
Johnston is one of seven Englishmen in the top 13 through two rounds. Two of them - Anthony Wall (65) and Tommy Fleetwood (67) - are tied for fourth with Scotland's Scott Jamieson (65).
Jamieson is currently 117th on the Race to Dubai with only the top 110 after next week's Portugal Masters keeping their card for next season. The Scot has been inspired by compatriot Marc Warren, who jumped from 125th to 70th after finishing fifth in the Dunhill Links Championship last week.
''It's amazing how quickly things can change,'' Jamieson said. ''Marc went from possibly losing his card to maybe playing in all the Final Series events, but I still have two big days ahead of me.''
Luke Donald, who is hosting the tournament, missed the cut by five shots after following up a first-round 77 with a 1-under 70.
''I thought as host they might give me another nine holes to try and make the cut, but it was not to be,'' Donald said, jokingly. ''I've seen a different side of what goes on and it has been fun to be a part of. It's tough to juggle but I'm not going to make any excuses.''
Round 1 - Four top first round leaderboard
October 14, 2016
Alex Noren, showing the sort of supreme confidence befitting one of the hottest players in Europe, eagled the par-five 18th to provide a springboard for another potential title push at the British Masters on Thursday.
The Swede coaxed in a curling 45-foot putt on the final green to put the seal on a four-under 67 that left him one behind first-round leaders Richard Sterne of South Africa, Scot Marc Warren, Finn Mikko Ilonen and England's Tommy Fleetwood.
In the last three months Noren has won the Scottish Open and the European Masters while also finishing second at the Paul Lawrie Match Play, eighth at the French Open and 11th at last week's Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews.
Asked what it would mean to achieve a title treble in a single campaign, the 34-year-old told Reuters in an interview: "It would be unbelievable.
"I was close at the Match Play. I didn't really think about that possibility at the start of the season and it would be amazing to do it."
Noren, who has a total of six European Tour victories to his credit, had to fight a tendency to push the ball off the tee in his opening round at The Grove.
"I didn't hit my driver very good," he said as he tried to shelter from the wintry winds on the outskirts of London.
"When you come from the links courses we played in Scotland last week, where you need low shots, to here where you need a little more flight on it, sometimes it's difficult to get it right.
"Sometimes it's like putting glue on your skis, you never know if it's right. That's what it's like with my driver."
Noren said that perhaps it was a case of trying too hard to hit the middle of the fairway off the tee.
"It's always been a bit of a weakness of mine," he explained. "When I hit my driver good I normally play pretty good.
"My putting has always been alright but I've got high expectations on the driver and maybe I should tone it down a bit."
Noren said fellow countryman Henrik Stenson's spectacular victory in the British Open at Royal Troon in July, when he became the first Scandinavian to land a major, provided a lift to every Swedish player on the tour.
"It was great for all of us," he added. "It's good to see guys around you doing so well.
"It gives you more confidence and more motivation when someone around you that you play with a lot and practice with a lot does well."
Noren missed out on a place at the Ryder Cup in Minnesota earlier this month. But he watched Europe's 17-11 defeat by the United States on television and it gave him an incentive to try to make the team in the future.
"I'd definitely like to play in it one day, feeling that pressure with all those fans around," he said. "As a player that's what you always want to work towards."