Player Blog: Alex Noren

Alex Noren writes this week’s blog entry from Augusta National Golf Club, focusing on his practice routine and the challenge lying ahead at the Masters Tournament.

In the past I think I’ve been among the hardest workers and practiced a lot, but maybe didn’t always have a plan on what to work on. You have to practice a lot, because you come up with something one day, but then the next you think you might have found something else. Maybe in the last two or three years I don’t think I’ve practiced as much, but I’ve got a clearer picture of what I want to achieve in my swing, chipping, putting and gym work now. So I’m probably practising less now, but I also had a daughter two years ago, so there’s something else in my life I want to give my time to. I think I practice now with a little more quality.

I take my daughter out on the course and she throws balls around. She likes coming out here and she knows I play golf. When my wife watches golf on TV, she says ‘Oh there’s Daddy!’ My daughter usually throws balls to me and then I hit them. She throws overhand, which I’m so proud of – she’s got a good start to her golf swing!

I used to have a lot of anxiety about my golf, not just in terms of results, but in terms of the mental side, not knowing if I’m heading in the right direction. The more I practiced, the more I knew I was good enough to stay on tour, but now everything is clearer. I know if I spend a couple of days with my coach everything usually improves, so the practice isn’t in vain.

On an off-week I watch videos of my swing, but never during a tournament. Sometimes I might watch my swing back on a Monday, but I try not to watch anything during the event itself. If I do I might start thinking, ‘Oh that looks bad, I don’t want it to look like that.’

The older I get the more I understand I can’t change as much as I want. Obviously, you always want a better-looking swing, but to change, what I’d call, your ‘under pressure swing’ is perhaps not worth it. It might be better just to work on ball flight. If you can hit every shot, draws, fades, high and low shots, then I think your swing will be good enough to compete. You just need to hit enough shots to get to know your game.

Ahead of the Masters, I’ve got my coaches over. In the week before a Major, you take practice a little bit more seriously; I’m not just guessing where my game is at. On a practice day, I’ll warm up a little with my physio and then work on the whole game. I’ll work on chipping and putting and then I’ll play a round, so every part of the game gets enough attention. Sometimes in the past I got stuck on one thing. If my tee game wasn’t working, I’d get stuck on the driving range for five hours and not practice anything else. Now I try to get a good balance.

For example, one day last week we did almost two hours of putting, maybe 45 minutes on short game, 30 mins on the range, played 18 holes and then did a bit more on the range. It’s not a really tough day; it’s more about hitting a few extra shots out there on the course, which gives you that extra pressure, as opposed to just doing it on the range.

I’ve always had calluses. It’s partly down to hitting a lot of balls, but I’ve always thought my grip slides in the swing a little bit, which isn’t a good thing. People say you must work hard, and I say that I do, but my club also slides around. Even my coach says ‘you must be sliding, because it’s not good to look like that!’ Your hands also get dirty on a range session, so that picture Kristoffer Broberg took a couple of years ago and posted on social media looks a little worse!

I think Augusta National suits my eye. It’s a real mix; some fairways are wide, some are narrower and it puts almost equal pressure on all parts of your game. Obviously, the greens are quick and undulated, too, but in order to have chance on the greens you need to have a good iron game. To have a good iron game, you need to set it up with a solid tee game. If you short-side yourself or end up putting downhill, you’ll have a tough day. The whole game needs to be in order here, which makes it a good course. It was nice to play it last year, because it was the first time I had seen the course and I didn’t know what to expect. Now I’ve had that experience, I have more of an idea how to play it, even though I missed the cut last year.

We actually came down to Augusta early last year. My caddie and I arrived the week before and were both excited to see the place. It obviously has such a special entrance and it felt like no other place I’ve been to. One thing I noticed was that the course itself felt extremely different with people than without. When we played it the first time, there was nobody on the course, but, of course, it was very different on the Monday.

I was always jealous of the best players playing on these hard golf courses, because you automatically get better by playing on them. You have to think more and the margin for errors gets smaller. I’ve always loved watching the US Open on TV and watching guys grind it out and not winning 24 under par. Of all the Majors, I’d say I’ve performed best in The Open. Being from Europe, you play more links golf than US Open-style courses. I’m not particularly amazing at low shots or anything like that, but I love the challenge of links golf.

Right now, it’s a dream battling it out with Henrik Stenson to be the highest-ranked Swede in the world. I’m overwhelmed to be in this position, but I try not to think about it too much; I don’t focus on rankings and lists. I’m just so happy to be in a position to play these golf courses that I always dreamed about playing. I feel more motivated than ever.