Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines – Sweden’s Alex Noren said he was “fortunate” to overturn a seven-shot deficit and claim a dramatic French Open victory at Le Golf National on Sunday, as the difficult closing stretch of the Ryder Cup course saw a host of challengers slip up.
World No 16 Noren fired a brilliant four-under 67 to reach seven-under par for the tournament, before sitting back and watching his rivals falter as he won by a single stroke.
“It’s unbelievable, I never thought I was going to win,” said the 35-year-old, who was three-over par heading into the weekend.
“I really didn’t think I was going to win at all. I thought I was going to miss the playoff by one, but as it unfolded, I thought it was going to be a playoff, and I got very fortunate, you know, the way it turned out.”
Noren will be a key figure for Europe when the Ryder Cup gets underway on September 28, and he showed all his qualities by playing the treacherous last three holes in two-under.
“If I would be on the team, it would mean a lot. You get good memories from here,” he said.
“I think all of us golfers work that way, and we like places that we played good on before.”
Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm both threatened, but the two Spaniards found water at the 18th, while world No 2 Justin Thomas never seriously contended.
Julian Suri, who was looking to become the first American winner of the event since Barry Jaeckel in 1972, went to the 72nd hole on eight-under but made a watery double-bogey, while England’s Chris Wood also blew a late lead.
“I just kind of threw away the tournament there with that second shot,” admitted Suri. “It’s a tough course but it stings pretty good right now.”
That handed Noren, who finished his fourth round 45 minutes before the final group, a 10th European Tour title and first since the BMW PGA Championship in May 2017, when he also fought back from seven shots behind on the final day.
Scotland’s Russell Knox carded a final-round 65 earlier in the day to finish tied for second with Suri and Wood on six-under – enough to secure a spot for the Open Championship later this month at Carnoustie along with Marcus Kinhult and Suri.
“Obviously (with) the Open Championship in Scotland and being a Scot, it’s a huge honour to get to play,” said Knox. “I’ve played in the last three, so I would hate to miss one, especially when it’s in Scotland.”
Overnight leader Kinhult, bidding for a maiden European Tour title, birdied the third hole to open up a four-shot advantage over Rahm on 11-under par overall.
The 21-year-old Swede blew the tournament wide open on the following hole, though, as an ill-advised attempted five-wood out of the rough ended with a triple-bogey.
World No 5 Rahm still looked the main danger, and his second birdie of the day on the 10th green made it a three-way tie at the top.
But the 23-year-old was left furious with a photographer after sending a tee shot way right on the 12th, and it took him four shots to dig the ball out of the long grass for a catastrophic triple of his own.
Garcia, who also made a triple-bogey on the first hole, found water again, as Suri made the most of other players’ struggles to claim the outright lead.
But he gave that shot straight back and Noren moved to within one heading to the final tee after back-to-back birdies.
He finished with a par to set the clubhouse target, and Suri succumbed to the pressure when the title was up for grabs.
Kinhult’s hopes came to a rough end with a double at the 15th, where Wood also bogeyed to fall back to level with Noren.
Suddenly the big-name Spanish pairing were in with an outside chance, but like Suri before them, they both found water at 18, leaving Wood as the last remaining threat to Noren.
And the Englishman made successive bogeys to finish, as Noren celebrated an unlikely triumph.
Leading final-round scores from the French Open at Le Golf National on Sunday (par 71):
277 – Alex Noren (SWE) 73-72-65-67
278 – Russell Knox (SCO) 71-70-72-65, Julian Suri (USA) 70-70-69-69, Chris Wood (ENG) 70-68-67-73
279 – Matthew Southgate (ENG) 71-73-70-65, Jon Rahm (ESP) 70-69-68-72, Marcus Kinhult (SWE) 71-65-67-76
280 – Alexander Bjork (SWE) 73-69-68-70, Jorge Campillo (ESP) 73-71-70-66, Justin Thomas (USA) 70-70-69-71, Sergio Garcia (ESP) 72-70-64-74
281 – Adrian Otaegui (ESP) 74-70-66-71, Wade Ormsby (AUS) 73-71-69-68, Dylan Frittelli (RSA) 71-71-71-68, Henric Sturehed (SWE) 75-68-71-67
282 – Shane Lowry (IRL) 70-75-67-70, Thomas Detry (BEL) 74-69-69-70, Tyrrell Hatton (ENG) 74-67-71-70, Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA) 77-69-68-68, Nino Bertasio (ITA) 76-68-72-66
283 – Jordan Smith (ENG) 71-70-71-71, Paul Dunne (IRL) 74-67-71-71, Ian Poulter (ENG) 72-74-68-69, Ashley Chesters (ENG) 73-72-70-68, Andy Sullivan (ENG) 68-75-72-68, Li Haotong (CHN) 71-73-72-67