Henrik Stenson backed Alex Noren to follow in his footsteps as a major champion after his fellow Swede overturned a seven-shot deficit with a stunning final round of 62 to win the BMW PGA Championship.
Noren fired eight birdies and an eagle on the 18th to establish a new course record on Wentworth’s revamped West Course, which underwent a £5 million renovation programme immediately after last year’s event.
That took Noren to 11 under par and set a clubhouse target none of the later starters were able to match, the 34-year-old having teed off almost two hours before the final group.
Open champion Stenson was part of a five-way tie on nine under early on the back nine, but none of the chasing pack were able to get within a shot of Noren, who was left to collect the first prize of £894,000 for his fifth European Tour title in 11 months.
Italy’s Francesco Molinari birdied the final two holes to finish second on nine under, a shot ahead of Stenson, Hideto Tanihara and Nicolas Colsaerts, who also eagled the 18th in his 65.
“It would be hard to say that you can’t see a major for him in the future if he keeps on playing like that,” Stenson said after a closing 68. “He’s worked a lot on his game, sometimes maybe too much. He played just twice in 2014 because of wrist problems but I think he’s kind of found his formula and it’s obviously working. I played with him in the final round when he won in Nedbank last year and the putts that he made were extraordinary. He’s making progress and he’s had a very impressive year.”
Noren, who won four times in 11 events last season, began the day seven shots off the lead after a double-bogey on the 18th on Saturday, but raced to the turn in 31 and picked up further birdies on the 12th, 13th, 14th and 16th. He had saved the best till last, however, rifling a five-iron approach from 204 yards which finished just four feet from the pin to set up a decisive eagle. Playing partner Peter Uihlein labelled it “the best round of golf I’ve ever seen” and Noren conceded it “probably” was, adding: “And I putted probably the best I’ve ever putted.
“It feels amazing and crazy. I had no intention of trying to win this morning. I did not even think about it. I was pretty angry after the third round, especially after chipping into the water from the back of the green on 18. But it’s a great feeling now and a bit unreal.”
Asked about his prospects of winning a major, Norenadded: “In my mind this tournament compares a lot with a major. A win like this brings your confidence up and that’s what I have always needed, to believe in myself.”
Ireland’s Shane Lowry was part of the five-way tie for second after racing to the turn in 30 thanks to five birdies in the first seven holes, including four in a row from the fourth.
But the 30-year-old then drove out of bounds on the 15th and also double-bogeyed the 17th, before at least ending the week in style with an eagle on the last.
Lowry finished in a tie for sixth alongside England’s Graeme Storm (68) and overnight leader Andrew Dodt, who birdied the last two holes in his 73. Lee Westwood, who started the day just three off the lead, did likewise to finish in a tie for 14th in a group which included Scott Jamieson, the joint second round leader, who closed with a 71 to finish as the top Scot, one shot ahead of Stephen Gallacher.