SOUTHPORT, England The Swedish invasion of Royal Birkdale is gathering pace.
Joining Fredrik Jacobson on the Friday afternoon leaderboard was Alexander Noren, who found himself tied for fourth at 2-over-par after a second-round even-par 70.
Noren, 25, is the latest would-be star to come off the seemingly endless Swedish production line that has given us Henrik Stenson, Fredrik Jacobson and Jesper Parnevik.
After a stellar amateur career on the Swedish national team, Noren honed his game at Oklahoma State University while studying business marketing (you know, in case pro golf doesn't work out). Playing in his first full season on the European Tour, Noren has proven he has the game to survive and maybe even thrive in the pro ranks. He was the first-round leader in last week's Scottish Open at Loch Lomond and reached his first British Open by surviving two qualifying rounds at Sunningdale, England earlier this month.
"I grew up watching Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros and couldn't even imagine I'd be here with a chance to win the Open," he said after a second-round 70 left him three shots off the lead and two behind Greg Norman, a man more than twice Noren's age. "It's the one major I would love to win. It's the oldest and the one with the most tradition. It's just fantastic."
A couple weeks back, Noren had a grandstand seat on Wimbledon's Centre Court to watch Rafael Nadal win the title. Now with his own shot at glory, Noren has drawn inspiration both from Nadal's emotional win and from the good play of Jacobson, who sat three shots behind Norman late Friday.
Noren seeks to outdo countryman Niclas Fasth, who finished runner-up to David Duval in 2001 at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, and Parnevik, who fell one shot short of Nick Price's winning mark at Turnberry in 1994. "Jesper has done so much for Swedish golf and has been an inspiration to all of us," Noren said. "Hopefully one day I can achieve the cult status he has."
But can Noren go one better and become the first Swede to take home the Claret Jug? "Why not?" he said. "Someone's going to win it. There are only two more rounds. Why not me?"