McDowell upbeat after Top 10; Noren wins third title in eight starts
Alex Noren with tournament host Luke Donald. Picture: Getty Images

Alex Noren with tournament host Luke Donald. Picture: Getty Images

Graeme McDowell followed a share of 15th in the Alfred Dunhill Links with a tie for fourth in the British Masters to boost his hopes of a strong finish to the season.

As Alex Noren won for the third time in eight starts, closing with a 69 to win by two strokes from Bernd Wiesberger on 18 under par. McDowell shot four rounds in the 60s in an event for the just the second time this year.

He now heads back to the US for the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and his defence of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba and, as he's ruling out the DP World Tour Championship, a season-ending partnership with Shane Lowry in the World Cup of Golf at Kingston Heath in Australia from November 24-27.

“Very pleasing week in general,” McDowell said after a closing 68 that began with two birdies before getting stuck in neutral.

"I wish I had felt as comfortable on the back nine as I did on the front nine all week but that's one of those things. Sometimes the golf course fits your eye in places and doesn’t fit it in others.

"The back nine really wasn't flicking my switches this week and I didn't play it very well.

"Especially holes like 18, if I played 18 better all week, I think I played it 1-over for the week, which on a hole where Tiger Woods played 7-under par here in 2006 is slightly disappointing.

"One of those things, all in all, great week. I thought The Grove was a spectacular venue. This golf tournament has reestablished as one of the premiere events on The European Tour and I thought we got incredibly lucky with the weather. Everything was made for a great week this week.”

Up to 46th in the Race to Dubai, McDowell looks likely to qualify for the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, even if the venue doesn’t suit his game.

But after a season of struggles that culminated with him losing his Ryder Cup place after four successive appearances, he’s looking to the future with optimism.

“Pity I didn’t play the back nine better this week, but really happy where I’m at and how the game is trending and looking forward to a strong finish to the year,” he added.

"I'm going to go back and play a couple of the events in the States at the end of the year. I’m going to defend at Mayakoba and play Vegas the week before and I'm going to be in Melbourne for the World Cup with Shane Lowry. 

"Disappointed not to factor more in the Final Series. No HSBC for me and I'm right on the edge for Dubai.

"I'll focus on those two events. It’s always important to friends when you get the opportunity to defend, and I look forward to finishing down in Melbourne, should be pretty cool.”

On his fortnight in Europe, he said: ”Yeah, straightened out a tough year. 2015 wasn’t my best year and 2016 has been a lot more like it. A bit more consistent but I like the way I’m trending.

"It's been two successful weeks in Europe. Nice to come back and see everyone. The weather behaved itself and the golf courses were awesome and I enjoyed my two weeks.”

Lowry will be disappointed with a closing 74 and a share of 41st on five under having made 15 birdies in four rounds.

The fact that more than half his birdies came at par-fives says much about his game and two double bogey sixes on the back nine turned a good week into an average one.

That said, Lowry will have seen many positives and with coach Neil Manchip on his bag all week, they have food for thought before the Turkish Airlines Open in a three weeks’ time.

Lowry is not contesting the Portugal Masters where Paul Dunne has made the field and can make sure of his European Tour card.

Despite falling three spots to 102nd in the Race to Dubai after failing to get a start in the British Masters, the Greystones rookie has a lead of more than 14,000 points over 110th ranked Craig Lee and control of his own fate.

As for the British Masters, where Paul McGInley’s closing 75 left him 54th on two under, Noren made it three European Tour titles in eight appearances with another impressive display of front-running.

The Swede also tasted victory on British soil in July at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open and in Switzerland last month at the Omega European Masters, and he sealed his trio of titles with a closing 69 at The Grove to finish two shots clear of Austrian Bernd Wiesberger.

Noren, who received the trophy from tournament host Luke Donald, had started the day with a three shot lead and birdied the opening two holes to extend that advantage.

Two bogeys in four holes either side of the turn gave some hope to the chasing pack, but birdies on the 15th and 18th holes proved decisive as Noren finished on 18 under par to earn his seventh European Tour victory – a win which moves him up to fourth place in The Race to Dubai.

Wiesberger has also been enjoying an impressive recent run of form, and his closing 67 for second place was his fourth straight top ten finish. He finished on 16 under par with England’s Lee Westwood, a future host of the tournament, a further shot back in third after also posting a round of 67.

McDowell shared fourth on 13 under par with English pair Tommy Fleetwood and Richard Bland, Swede Peter Hanson and France’s Alex Levy.

Alex Noren

“It's an amazing feeling to win three times. Honestly I never thought this would happen. I’ve been working on the whole game and not being too picky on hitting this and this shot and staying on the range for six hours, coming home kind of devastated that I'm not pulling the right shots off.
“I'm trying to look at it a little bit more long term and enjoy golf a bit more. I love playing golf and that's just how it should be, and not trying to put too much pressure on myself and look this way or that way and just find something that worked and then played with it that day.

Bernd Wiesberger

“It was really, really good playing again. It wasn't easy out there today. I didn't drive it really well the first nine, which was really hard because I felt really comfortable with drives the first three days. I just had to find a couple more fairways and felt more comfortable on the back nine.
Unfortunately this week was not quite my week on the greens. But to finish well in a strong field like this, it helps going into the final couple of events this year.”

Lee Westwood

“I played well this week. I've hit the ball really well tee-to-green. On the greens, I've been very solid. The short game's good. I felt pretty comfortable all week and it was nice to play well. The fans have been fantastic all week. Thousands have turned out, and it’s October in England, and the weather is not always predictable, although the sun has come out now, obviously. They give fantastic support and they are a pleasure to play in front of.”

Complete final round scores (par 71)

266 A Noren (Swe) 67 65 65 69,

268 B Wiesberger (Aut) 68 66 67 67,

269 L Westwood (Eng) 67 68 67 67,

271 R Bland (Eng) 67 64 69 71, G McDowell (Nir) 68 68 67 68, T Fleetwood (Eng) 66 67 68 70, A Levy (Fra) 70 66 68 67, P Hanson (Swe) 70 65 66 70,

272 R Sterne (RSA) 66 68 67 71, T Hatton (Eng) 68 66 70 68,

273 M Siem (Ger) 69 68 65 71,

274 P Edberg (Swe) 69 69 67 69, M Ilonen (Fin) 66 71 69 68, L Slattery (Eng) 67 70 68 69, K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 70 70 70 64, D Horsey (Eng) 67 71 70 66, S Gallacher (Sco) 70 67 70 67,

275 J Campillo (Esp) 71 66 67 71, M Southgate (Eng) 69 70 67 69, A Wall (Eng) 68 65 74 68, J Lagergren (Swe) 75 65 66 69,

276 C Wood (Eng) 68 66 72 70, R Paratore (Ita) 73 65 72 66, M Carlsson (Swe) 70 69 71 66, M Warren (Sco) 66 69 69 72, T Jaidee (Tha) 70 69 70 67, E Pepperell (Eng) 72 65 69 70,

277 J Parry (Eng) 71 67 70 69, S Kjeldsen (Den) 68 69 68 72, D Brooks (Eng) 70 68 68 71, A Johnston (Eng) 67 65 73 72, S Jamieson (Sco) 68 65 71 73,

278 J Quesne (Fra) 70 72 67 69, J Walters (RSA) 71 68 67 72, S Webster (Eng) 72 68 67 71, T Aiken (RSA) 71 66 70 71, J Morrison (Eng) 67 73 67 71, G Bourdy (Fra) 68 70 72 68, F Fritsch (Ger) 72 70 68 68, P Larrazábal (Esp) 70 70 69 69,

279 M Ford (Eng) 69 68 71 71, A Sullivan (Eng) 72 70 67 70, R Kakko (Fin) 72 68 68 71, S Lowry (Irl) 68 70 67 74,

280 M Baldwin (Eng) 70 68 72 70, A Cañizares (Esp) 73 69 70 68, J Luiten (Ned) 69 70 73 68, R Karlberg (Swe) 73 69 67 71,

281 R Rock (Eng) 69 73 69 70, M Manassero (Ita) 73 68 68 72, R Jacquelin (Fra) 73 67 67 74, M Fitzpatrick (Eng) 70 70 70 71, N Colsaerts (Bel) 69 67 76 69,

282 P McGinley (Irl) 70 67 70 75, M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra) 71 69 70 72, M Kieffer (Ger) 70 70 70 72, D Lipsky (USA) 72 69 69 72,

283 C Shinkwin (Eng) 71 71 69 72, G Stal (Fra) 71 67 71 74,

284 M Korhonen (Fin) 71 68 75 70, C Lee (Sco) 70 69 74 71, C Paisley (Eng) 70 71 72 71, F Zanotti (Par) 71 69 75 69, D Howell (Eng) 73 69 71 71,

285 H Porteous (RSA) 70 69 73 73, J Hugo (RSA) 71 71 71 72,

286 F Aguilar (Chi) 72 70 72 72, R Fisher (Eng) 72 66 76 72,

287 J Singh (Ind) 69 71 71 76,

288 P Waring (Eng) 70 72 69 77,

289 O Fisher (Eng) 70 72 67 80,

290 M Cort (Eng) 72 69 74 75.