Alex Noren Wins European Masters in Playoff

September 4, 2016

CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland (AP) — Alex Noren of Sweden sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole to beat Scott Hend of Australia in a playoff for the European Masters title on Sunday.

Noren fired a 5-under round of 65 to be tied at 17 under with Hend, the overnight leader who carded a 66 on the Swiss Alps course.

Playing the par-four 18th hole again in the playoff, Hend left his third shot from the fringe of the green well short before Noren’s no-doubter putt earned a 450,000 euros ($502,000) winner’s prize.

The 39th-ranked Noren won his sixth European Tour title on the same Swiss Alps course where his first came in 2009.

In third place, Andrew “Beef” Johnston of England went 5 under on the inward nine holes to card a 65, trailing Noren and Hend by three.

Lee Westwood was best of Europe’s Ryder Cup players, firing a 7-under 63 to place fourth, five strokes back.

Danny Willett, the 2016 Masters champion defending his title here, shot a 64 to finish tied for 12th place at 9 under.

Noren needed only 30 shots for the outward nine, then dropped his first stroke at the par-4 10th. Hend began a stretch of three birdies in four holes from the 12th to cut the Swede’s lead to one shot.

A three-putt by Noren at the 17th gave Hend a chance, which the Australian almost wasted on the 18th by pulling his tee shot left into the trees. Hend saved par to force the playoff as rain started to fall for the first time all week.

On a standout day for Europe’s Ryder Cup players, Westwood’s round edged 64s for fellow Englishmen Willett and Matt Fitzpatrick, the runner-up here last year who finished at 10 under.

Westwood holed his own long putt on the 18th for a seventh birdie in a round with no dropped shots. Still, a first-round 72 on Thursday left the 1999 European Masters winner too far back to challenge.

“On the first day I was a bit rusty,” Westwood acknowledged. “I haven’t played much golf for four weeks before coming here.”

Westwood and Willett plan to play one more tournament before the Ryder Cup starts Sept. 30 at Hazeltine, Minnesota. Both will take one week off, then return at the Italian Open, played Sept. 15-18 at Monza.

“I’m looking forward to another week off for practice and then to Italy,” Willett said, after a round had begun with bogey-5s at the first two holes.