Alex Noren edges out Scott Hend in play-off at the Omega European Masters
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 04/09/16 6:11pm
Alex Noren drained a 30-foot birdie putt on the first play-off hole against Scott Hend to pick up his second win of the season at the Omega European Masters.
Noren, who won the first of his six European Tour titles at Crans-sur-Sierre in 2009, led by two shots with four holes to play, but he was unable to match Hend's birdie at the long 15th and the Swede then three-putted the 17th green.
Hend duck-hooked his tee shot at the 18th but enjoyed a huge slice of fortune when his second pitched short of the stream at the front of the green and hopped onto the putting surface, and he got up and down from the rear rough to force extra holes.
The Australian's tee shot back at the 18th again veered left and cannoned off a tree back into the fairway, but he managed to bludgeon his second onto the front-left portion of the green and chipped to six feet with Noren safely on in two.
But Hend was soon picking up his marker as Noren judged the pace and line of his birdie putt to perfection to wrap up another impressive victory, just four tournament after he won the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart.
Noren had trailed Hend by one stroke overnight, but he birdied the first before responding to a Hend birdie at the fifth by reeling off four in a row to cap a superb outward 30, although he then bogeyed the next only for Hend to drop his first shot of the round at the 11th.
The leading pair traded further birdies at 12 and 14 before Hend but the deficit to one when he go up and down from a greenside bunker at the 15th, and Noren's mistake at the penultimate hole set up a tense finale.
Noren (65) and Hend (66) finished three shots clear of fan-favourite Andrew Johnston, who delighted the galleries with an eagle at the 14th and birdies at two of the next three as he romped home in 30 to return his second 65 of the week.
Johnston closed on 14 under, two ahead of Lee Westwood as the Ryder Cup star gave European captain Darren Clarke plenty to cheer with a flawless seven-birdie 63, the joint-lowest round of the day along with Oliver Fisher.
Richard Bland, playing in the final group with Noren and Hend, forced his way into contention when he followed an eagle-two at the fifth with birdies at the next two holes, but he lost his way after the turn and finished with an ugly double-bogey six at the last.
Bland's 69 left him on 11 under alongside Julien Quesne, while Matt Fitzpatrick and Danny Willett gave Clarke more encouragement ahead of their Ryder Cup debuts at Hazeltine as both fired 64s.
Fitzpatrick, who birdied four of the last five holes to make the cut with nothing to spare on Friday, kept a bogey off his card as he finished on 10 under, with Willett one further adrift after he recovered from a bogey-bogey start with five birdies over the next six holes.
Willett shared 12th with Fisher, who eagled both the seventh and ninth holes in his bogey-free 63, while Chris Wood - the other Ryder Cup debutant in action over the weekend - picked up four shots in as many holes from the 14th to salvage a 70 which left him on two under for the tournament.