- Associated Press - Sunday, May 28, 2017

VIRGINIA WATER, England (AP) - Racked with nerves, Alex Noren could barely line up his 6-foot eagle putt on the final hole that would help to clinch him the BMW PGA Championship on Sunday.

The Swedish golfer still managed to roll it into the center of the cup, where most of his putts ended up during the best round of his life.

Rediscovering his sensational form of 2016, Noren shot a course-record 10-under 62 at Wentworth and came from seven strokes back in the final round to win the signature event on the European Tour against the odds.

“That was the best round of golf I’ve ever seen,” tweeted Peter Uihlein, Noren’s playing partner.

The 13th-ranked Noren had to wait before he could really celebrate the ninth and biggest victory of his career, and a first prize of 894,000 pounds ($1.14 million).

He started the final round so far behind that more than two hours of play were remaining after his eagle on the par-5 No. 18.

That set the clubhouse target of 11-under 277, but the likes of Henrik Stenson, Branden Grace, Shane Lowry and Hideto Tanihara were all picking up shots and looked likely to challenge the lead. Noren felt he might even be three strokes too short.

In the end, no one got within a stroke as the chasers fell away once late-afternoon rain arrived.

“It feels amazing and crazy,” Noren said. “I had no intention of winning this morning.”

Francesco Molinari was second - two strokes back - after a 68, with Stenson (68), Tanihara (68) and Nicolas Colsaerts (65) a shot further behind.

Noren was the hottest player in European golf in the second half of last year, during which he earned four victories in a 10-event stretch from July to November to climb into the world’s top 10 for the first time.

The 34-year-old Noren has had just two top-10 finishes since the last of his 2016 wins, at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in November. He has played more events on the PGA Tour this year and said he struggled with the firmness of the greens, but a fifth-place finish at the Dell Technologies Match Play in March restored some confidence before a 10th place at The Players Championship two weeks ago.

His 62 equaled the lowest round of his professional career, matching one at the Portugal Masters in 2009, and established a new course record on the revamped West Course, which underwent a renovation program immediately after last year’s event. Thomas Bjorn also shot a 62 at Wentworth, the headquarters of the European Tour, in 2014.

Noren picked up four birdies in his first seven holes, four more from Nos. 12-16, and then came to No. 18, where he felt nervous having made double-bogey on Saturday by sending a chip from the back of the green into the water guarding the front.

This time, his 5-iron approach pitched at 210 yards and rolled just by the pin, giving him a left-to-right putt that he curled in despite saying he was “shaking.” It completed a round that was three shots better than any other player’s this week.

Noren’s next target is to contend at a major.

“The only thing I’m trying to do is play better against better fields and on better courses,” Noren said. “I think this is very close to a major. My confidence goes up.”

Andrew Dodt of Australia took a one-stroke lead into the final round, but bogeyed No. 1 and shot 73 to finish four strokes behind Noren in a tie for sixth.


Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80

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