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Norén triumphs as all around him crash out


While the early front-runners were running into trouble, icy Swede Alex Noren was able to hold his nerve, birdie two of his last three holes and come from behind to win the HNA Open de France on Sunday.

It was his 10th European Tour victory, his first this year and, following his BMW PGA Championship triumph last year, his second in a Rolex Series event, which, because of it's high status, earned him just over one million Euros.

The 35-year-old from Stockholm closed with a 4-under 67 to finish with a 277 which, at only 7-under on the par-71 Le Golf National where September's Ryder Cup matches are to be played, gave a clear indication of just how unforgiving this course can be.

In the end after a long wait which he spent keeping warm on the practice range in the case of a play-off, Noren, the first Swede to win the Open de France, beat another strong-finishing come-from-behind-closer, Russel Knox (65) of Scotland along with American Julian Suri (69) and lanky Englishman Chris Wood (73) by one shot.

Luckless fellow Swede Marcus Kinhult who, at just 21, had sensational led this strong international field by two shots and more since the second round, eventually finished in a three-way tie for 5th with Spain's World No 5 Jon Rahm (72) and Englishman Matthew Southgate (65) after seeing his game implode coming down the final stretch where he was only able to add a 76 to the 65 and 67 he had shot when he led the 2nd and 3rd rounds.

Meanwhile, Noren, who had started the day seven shots behind Kinhult, had not looked like a likely winner when he turned in 35, but he then
birdied the 12th, 16th and 17th to take the clubhouse lead at seven-under.

Suri led out on the course, but for the American, who like US Open champion Brooks Koepke did, has started his pro career in Europe, dumped his second on the 18th into the water to finish with a double-bogey and a one-too-much 67 while another of the strong earlier contenders, Wood bogeying the 15th and 17th to also leave Noren one shot out in front and victorious

World No 2 Justin Thomas (71), Swede Alexander Björk (70) and the Spanish duo of Jorge Campillo (66) and the 2017 Masters champion, Sergio Garcia (74), finished three shots off the lead in joint 8th place on 280.

Noren, who also came from behind at the 2017 BMW PGA Championship and had also had to wait to hear that he had won, said, “When you're out there you really want this win and it felt unbelievable to get it today,” he said. “It's what I was putting and practicing for, maybe a play-off, it was unreal how it went and I really didn't expect that.”

It took him to a straight 4th winning season and should serve as excellent preparation, both for this month's Open Championship at Carnoustie and for September's Ryder Cup which significantly will come to Le Golf National for the first time.

“If I would be on the team (for th3 first time) it would mean a whole lot,” he said. “You get good memories from here. The first two years I came here I thought I could never win around here and the last three years I've had good results. It helps a lot.”

Wood first got into trouble on the third, where he found the thick rough, struggled to get out of it and then played a poor chip over the back of the green for a double-bogey.

Kinhult, playing alongside him, birdied the same hole and then led by four, but a triple-bogey on the next after finding the rough off the tee and sending his third onto a cart-path pulled him back into the pack where he shared the lead for a spell, but from where would never again emerge.

Knox was bogey-free, shooting birdies on the 5th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 14th on his way to carding his 65 and taking second place.

Southgate charged through the field with birdies on the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 8th, 9th, 14th and 17th but when he needed a birdie at 18 to tie Noren he dropped a shot.
Rahm was tied for the lead but triple-bogeyed the 12th and, while a birdie on the 16th gave him hope, he found the water on the last.

Garcia, looking like a possible winner after the third round, did well to hit back from a triple-bogey set-back on the 1st hole after he twice found water on Sunday, but he double-bogeyed the last after once more finding water to end any hopes he might have held.

(Par 71)

277 Alex Noren (Swe) 73 72 65 67
278 Russell Knox (Sco) 71 70 72 65, Julian Suri (Usa) 70 70 69 69, Chris Wood (Eng) 70 68 67 73
279 Marcus Kinhult (Swe) 71 65 67 76, Jon Rahm (Esp) 70 69 68 72, Matthew Southgate (Eng) 71 73 70 65
280 Alexander Björk (Swe) 73 69 68 70, Campillo Jorge (Esp) 73 71 70 66, Sergio Garcia (Esp) 72 70 64 74, Justin Thomas (Usa) 70 70 69 71
281 Dylan Frittelli (Rsa) 71 71 71 68, Wade Ormsby (Aus) 73 71 69 68, Adrian Otaegui (Esp) 74 70 66, Henric Sturehed (Swe) 75 68 71 67
282 Nino Bertasio (Ita) 76 68 72 66, Thomas Detry (Bel) 74 69 69 70, Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 74 67 71 70, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 77 69 68 68, Shane Lowry (Irl) 70 75 67 70
283 Ashley Chesters (Eng) 73 72 70 68, Paul Dunne (Irl) 74 67 71 71, Li Haotong (Chn) 71 73 72 67, Ian Poulter (Eng) 72 74 68 69, Jordan Smith (Eng) 71 70 71 71, And Sullivan (Eng) 68 75 72 68,
284 Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 71 69 72 72, David Horsey (Eng) 75 71 68 70, Predo Oriol (Esp) 71 70 70 73, Shubhankar Sharma (Ind) 76 69 71 68.

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Neville Leck

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