Alex Noren of Sweden holed a 30-foot birdie putt on the first play-off hole to defeat a battling Scott Hend of Australia and win the Omega European Masters for the second time in his career.
Noren, who won the Swiss showpiece in 2009, returned with a five-under-par 65 to end his campaign tied on 17-under-par 263 alongside Hend (66) as they returned to the 18th hole for extra time at the Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club.
Victory did not come easy for the Swede who had to hold off the strong challenge from overnight leader Hend, who played solid golf except for two poor tee shots on the 18th hole where he saved par.
The amiable Andrew Johnston of England carded a 65 to finish on 266, three shots from joining the play-off while Lee Westwood finished in fourth position following a 63 at the €2.7 million (approximately US$3 million) event sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour.
Li Hao-tong of China fired a 69 to take a share of 18th place and finish as the highest placed Asian at the Omega European Masters.
The 2016 season could not get any better for Noren, who welcomed a baby girl in February and was victorious at the Scottish Open in July. With his win, the Swede is now the only player after the late Seve Ballesteros of Spain and Thomas Bjorn of Denmark to win two Omega European Masters title.
“It sounds unbelievable. I’m coming off a three-week vacation and trying to get the game in shape and it got into shape quite quickly so it is fantastic. There were tough guys hunting me today but I’m happy I won,” said Noren, now a six-time winner in Europe.
The 34-year-old Noren offset Hend’s overnight one-shot lead with an opening birdie and enjoyed a two-shot advantage when he holed four straight birdies before the turn.
His lead was reduced to one as a fast-charging Hend birdied 15 and it was all squared when Noren three-putted 17 for his second bogey of the day.
“It was howling off the mat (18th hole) and you need to hit a big hook. I got lucky pulling that off (twice) but the other guys didn’t. I’ve never won coming from behind or won in a play-off on the European Tour so that makes it more amazing,” said Noren.
Hend, a nine-time Asian Tour winner, was disappointed to settle for second place after hitting two poor tee shots on the 18th hole into the trees.
“He (Alex) played fantastic golf today but I didn’t play quite well enough. That’s golf. You can’t complain when you get into position to win but somebody makes a great birdie on the play-off hole to win,” said Hend, a nine-time Asian Tour winner.
“I think Alex played the 18th hole way better than I did and made an awesome birdie for a deserving win. It wasn’t a daunting tee shot on the last. It is just like any other tee shot. You just need to stand there and hit it. I was unable to hit the shot I wanted yesterday and today, twice,” he lamented.
Scores after round 4 of the Omega European Masters being played at the par 70, 6848 Yards Crans-sur-Sierre GC course (am – denotes amateur):
263 – Alex NOREN (SWE) 69-63-66-65, Scott HEND (AUS) 65-67-65-66.
*Noren wins with a birdie on the first play-off hole*
266 – Andrew JOHNSTON (ENG) 65-68-68-65.
268 – Lee WESTWOOD (ENG) 72-66-67-63.
269 – Julien QUESNE (FRA) 65-68-71-65, Richard BLAND (ENG) 67-64-69-69.
270 – Matthew FITZPATRICK (ENG) 75-65-66-64, Renato PARATORE (ITA) 75-63-67-65, Pablo LARRAZABAL (ESP) 71-68-66-65, Florian FRITSCH (GER) 67-69-66-68, Romain LANGASQUE (FRA) 68-63-70-69.
271 – Oliver FISHER (ENG) 70-69-69-63, Danny WILLETT (ENG) 65-72-70-64, Raphael JACQUELIN (FRA) 69-69-67-66, Michael LORENZO-VERA (FRA) 64-73-67-67, David DRYSDALE (SCO) 70-68-64-69, Mikko ILONEN (FIN) 66-67-68-70.
272 – George COETZEE (RSA) 70-69-67-66, Anthony WALL (ENG) 66-73-65-68, Joachim B. HANSEN (DEN) 65-68-70-69, Alexander LEVY (FRA) 68-67-68-69, LI Hao-tong (CHN) 65-70-68-69, James MORRISON (ENG) 65-70-68-69.