Alex Noren is hoping the memories of his victory at The Celtic Manor Resort will inspire a return to form as he heads to this week’s ISPS Handa Wales Open to defend the title he won in style last year.
The Swede overcame friend and one-time golfing idol Anders Hansen on the final day to win by two shots and claim the first of two European Tour titles in a hugely successful season which culminated in him finishing 14th in The Race to Dubai.
This year Noren recorded back-to-back top ten finishes in the Volvo China Open and the Ballantine’s Championship, but the consistency he showed in 2011 has so far proved elusive, so he is looking forward to returning to a venue where he has triumphed in the past.
“I’d had a tough time on that course before, but last year everything felt really great and I played very well,” said the 29 year old. “I was excellent from tee to green. All the memories and the things you look back on when you recall a win come to mind and make you feel good. It’s going to be really fun to go back there this year.
“I was so pleased with how I drove the ball and hit the irons. I really felt like an improved player and it was a nice feeling going head to head with Anders Hansen, who is world-class. I’ve always looked up to him and admired his game, so to go up against him on the last day and beat him was a nice feeling.”
The Celtic Manor Resort will always be remembered for Europe’s magnificent Ryder Cup victory over the United States in October 2010, and many players will no doubt have the legendary contest on their minds as 2012 Captain José María Olazábal is in the field to run the rule over potential members of his Team.
“Last year I thought about The 2010 Ryder Cup a lot,” said Noren. “When you see a course on TV and see what the players do, you naturally think about it when you play it. You remember what happened on different holes and the tough shots the players made. It makes you think about the difficult putts they made to win, and you think to yourself ‘I’m going to try to make a putt like that’.
“It’s a tough course and you don’t make too many birdies. My winning score was nine under, which is not that low. You need to play conservatively.”
Noren admits making The 2012 European Ryder Cup Team is a tough task with only three months left to qualify, adding: “I need to play super well from here on in to make the Team. I’d have to win a lot.
“I’m playing okay. It was nice to play well in Asia two weeks running and my game is a lot better than it was at the start of the year – I feel a lot better, physically and mentally. I still need to improve a bit. There’s not a lot of work to do, but it’s just a question of keeping at it and maybe practising less every day – but better. We’re working on it.”
Four members of The 2010 European Ryder Cup Team are in the field – Spaniard Miguel Angel Jiménez, Englishman Ross Fisher and Italian brothers Edoardo and Francesco Molinari – as is the man who led them to glory, Colin Montgomerie.
This is the 13th edition of the €1.8 million event, and it is the fifth year it has been played over the 7,378-yards, par 71 Twenty Ten Course.