SUN CITY, South Africa (AP) — Alex Noren won the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa with the round of his life on Sunday, a sublime 63 that took him from six shots off the lead overnight to a 6-shot victory and his fourth title of a remarkable season on the European Tour.
Noren was 9 under through the first 11 holes at Sun City on the way to matching the best final round by a winner on this year’s tour.
“I found something … This was the round of my life,” the Swede said.
The triumph will move Noren up to third on the tour’s Race to Dubai, giving him a chance to be crowned Europe’s No. 1 golfer at the season-ending World Tour Championship in Dubai next weekend. Noren is also set to move into the top 10 in the world rankings when they are updated, some rise for a player whose aim at the beginning of the season was to crack the top 50.
The winner’s check of $1.16 million at Sun City took the 34-year-old Noren’s 2016 earnings above $3.3 million. Two years ago, Noren earned less than $6,000 for the season.
While Noren streaked ahead to finish 14 under overall, Jeunghun Wang, who was three shots clear overnight, ended second on 8 under after four bogeys in his last six holes saw him slip to a 3-over 75 on the last day.
Race to Dubai leader and British Open champion Henrik Stenson was eighth on 6 under, and maintains his advantage on the season standings ahead of the World Tour Championship. U.S. Masters champion Danny Willett finished in a tie for 11th at Sun City and retains second place in the Race to Dubai.
Noren’s victory drops Rory McIlroy down to fourth after the Northern Irishman skipped the first two events of the tour’s final series, last weekend’s Turkish Airlines Open and the Nedbank Challenge.
McIlroy is expected to return to action in Dubai, when the race has opened up and Noren has a chance at an incredible finish to an already incredible season. He’s the first four-time winner on the 2016 European Tour, the first Swede to ever win four times in a season on the tour, and the first player to win four events in a season since McIlroy in 2014.
On Sunday at Sun City, and after he was left frustrated with a third-round 75, Noren opened with three straight birdies and birdied six of his first nine holes. He made eagle on No. 10, and two more birdies coming home, leaving him the luxury of two pars to finish and seal the title on his Nedbank debut.
He also heads to Dubai with high praise from Nedbank Challenge tournament host and South Africa’s nine-time major champion Gary Player.
“I got some good words from Gary Player,” Noren said. “He thought my chipping looked good and that is always nice to hear.”