Alex Noren claimed his best result at a World Golf Championships at the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play and then declared it the perfect preparation for the Masters Tournament.
The Swede beat World Number Two Justin Thomas in a play-off to finish third at Austin Country Club and in the process moved up to 14th in the Official World Golf Ranking, leapfrogging countryman Henrik Stenson to become the world’s top Swede.
Stenson already has a Major after his 2016 Open Championship victory but after winning six matches out of seven in Texas, Noren believes his game is in the right place to become Sweden’s second player to win one of golf’s big four.
“I think it’s so much better this year overall,” he said of his game. “My tee-to-green has been so much better, that is what I’m most happy about. I’ve always had a better short game and the putting. I’m happy with that. I’m happy and a little bit calmer now.
“It’s going to be nice. It’s perfect for me, I gained a lot of confidence from this week. Match play is tough. You’re trying your hardest on every shot. It’s a good warm-up.
“It feels good to have a week off now and recharge my batteries and see my coaches and fine-tune what wasn’t going so well this week and then work on what’s going well.
“I’m looking forward to the Masters.”
Noren claimed a 3-0-0 record in the group stages and after victories over Patrick Reed and Cameron Smith on Saturday, looked in good shape to go all the way to the Walter Hagen Trophy.
He made five consecutive one-putt birdies in his semi-final but they won him only one hole in a high-quality match against Kevin Kisner and after missing good chances after the turn and on the last, he fell at the first play-off hole.
In the 3rd/4th play-off, Thomas made a mess of the first but hit a stunner into the third before Noren re-took a lead he would not let go again on the next.
It’s going to be nice. It’s perfect for me, I gained a lot of confidence from this week – Alex Noren
Another birdie came on the fifth and after a concession on the sixth, Noren won the seventh, 11th, 13th and 15th in an ultimately comfortable win.
“I’m very pleased with the way I played,” he said. “It’s been a long week. There’s a lot of pressure, I feel the pressure, so I’m happy.
“I was very angry this morning after the loss, I really thought I had some great opportunities on the back nine to take the lead but it didn’t happen. And then he rolled some good putts. I was devastated after that loss, it was one of the hardest losses probably ever for me.
“And then coming out this afternoon, it feels just kind of weird that there’s a lot to play for and I’m happy with the way I played.
“He’s a great player and I played steady today. It’s great to play against the best, especially to beat them.”