Alex Noren has Wall to climb in bid for Scottish double

Swede Alex Noren celebrates after chipping in for an eagle at the sixth in the quarter-finals at Archerfield Links. Picture: PA

Swede Alex Noren celebrates after chipping in for an eagle at the sixth in the quarter-finals at Archerfield Links. Picture: PA

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Alex Noren literally has a Wall standing between him and a Scottish double at Archerfield Links today, where the final of the Aberdeen Asset Management Paul Lawrie Match Play is set to be a battle in winds predicted to touch 45mph on the East Lothian coast.

“It doesn’t bother me, to be honest,” insisted 41-year-old Wall when reminded that his sole success had been in the 2000 Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa. “I’ve had many wins in my life. I’ve got a beautiful wife, Sharon, and two children. I know it sounds corny, but I believe that.” Good on him and there’s no doubt that the Sunningdale man would be a popular winner among many of his peer if does walk away with a top prize of £144,000 today.

Even if he pocketted that, Noren still wouldn’t get into the reckoning for the nine automatic spots up for grabs in Darren Clarke’s team for next month’s Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. He’d also proabably need yet another win to force his way into the mix for a captain’s pick. At the moment, though, he’s not due to play in either of the two final counting events in the qualifying race - the Czech Masters next week then the Made in Denmark the week after that.

“I’m going to have a break for three weeks,” said the Monaco-based player after staying on course for a second success on Scottish soil with wins over compatriot Johan Carlsson (4&2) and Engishman James Morrison (3&2). “I’m taking a week’s holiday then training for two weeks to get ready for the eight to 10 tournaments I’ll have left this season.”

Would winning again so soon after his success in the Highlands perhaps prompt a re-think? “I don’t think so,” he added. “If I managed to make the Ryder Cup it would be amazing, but I’m not going to bet all my money on doing that. I may play in these two events, but not get in. I need these two weeks to work on things for the tough stretch of tournaments coming up. I was so far out (of the Ryder Cup picture) coming into the Scottish Open and I’ve been working my whole career on trying to be in the now and not look too much ahead and, if I don’t get in this time, I’ll try to get in next time.”

If his performances so far this week are anything to go by, Noren would certainly be worth consideration by Clarke as he considers his three picks, which will be announced on 30 August. He’s made 34 birdies and an eagle in 
78 holes on the DJ Russell-designed Fidra Links. Yesterday alone he nine-under in the morning then six-under in the afternoon. One of only two bogeys was caused by his ball moving on pine needles in the trees at the ninth that resulted in a penalty stroke.

“This is probably the best spell in my career in terms of consistency,” admitted Noren, who missed most of the 2014 season due to tendonitis in both wrists but looks a man on a mission at the moment as he bids to make up for lost time. “It’s maybe not super golf all the time, but this week I’ve hit a lot of fairways, hit my driver a little bit longer than usual and putted great.”

Wall’s putter has also been hot at times. It kept him alive as he made a battling birdie-4 at the 18th to stay alive in his semi-final against compatriot Oliver Fisher, having chipped in for an eagle at the same hole earlier in the day to finish two up against South African Haydn Porteous. The flat stick came up tricks again for Wall at the fourth extra hole as he knocked in an eight-footer for birdie.

Wall’s putter has also been hot at times. It kept him alive as he made a battling birdie-4 at the 18th to stay alive in his semi-final against 27-year-old compatriot Oliver Fisher, having chipped in for an eagle at the same hole earlier in the day to finish two up against South African Haydn Porteous. The flat stick came up tricks again for Wall at the fourth extra hole as he knocked in an eight-footer for birdie.

“We both played and it was a good game,” said the winner at the end of a contest where the pair were never separated by more than a hole, though Fisher never managed to get his nost in front. “I was impressed with Oli today. He stuck with me and I loved every minute of it, even though I was getting tired at the end.”

Wall certainly isn’t Jason Day, Jordan Spieth or Rory McIlroy. That he’s never lost his European Tour card, though, and sits 46th on the circuit’s career money-list is testimony to someone playing consistent golf and there’s no danger of Noren taking his opponent lighlty in a final that is set to be played in the toughest conditions of the week by far.

“Alex is obviously the man in form in the whole field and and I’m looking forward to it,” said the underdog. “I like playing in the wind and Alex won in Sweden (the Nordea Masters) a couple of years ago and almost lapped the field in the high wind, so he clearly like the wind. I’m sure it will be a great game.”

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