Alex Noren beats Scott Hend in playoff to top European Masters

CRANS-MONTANA, Switzerland — Alex Noren of Sweden sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole to beat Scott Hend of Australia in a playoff for the European Masters title on Sunday.

Noren fired a 5-under round of 65 to be tied at 17 under with Hend, the overnight leader who carded a 66 on the Swiss Alps course.

Playing the par-four 18th hole again in the playoff, Hend left his third shot from the fringe of the green well short before Noren's no-doubter putt earned a 450,000 euros ($502,000) winner's prize.

"It was a really fun day," said Noren, who won his sixth European Tour title on the same Swiss Alps course where his first came in 2009.

In third place, Andrew "Beef" Johnston of England went 5 under on the inward nine holes to card a 65, trailing Noren and Hend by three.

Lee Westwood was the best of Europe's Ryder Cup players, firing a 7-under 63 to place fourth, five strokes back.

Danny Willett, the 2016 Masters champion defending his title here, shot a 64 to finish tied for 12th place at 9 under.

Noren, who is poised to rise from his No. 39 world ranking, also won in July at the Scottish Open and believes he can handle pressure better since his now six-month-old daughter was born.

"I have a baby girl now and that takes up a lot of my focus," said the 34-year-old Swede, whose family joined him in Switzerland this week. "It's only golf. It's not my whole life anymore."

Noren needed only 30 shots for the outward nine, then dropped his first stroke at the par-4 10th. Hend began a stretch of three birdies in four holes from the 12th to cut the Swede's lead to one shot.

A three-putt by Noren at the 17th gave Hend a chance, which the Australian almost wasted on the 18th by pulling his tee shot left into the trees. Hend saved par to force the playoff as rain started to fall for the first time all week.


On a standout day for Europe's Ryder Cup players, Westwood's round edged 64s for fellow Englishmen Willett and Matt Fitzpatrick, the runner-up here last year who finished at 10 under.

Westwood holed his own long putt on the 18th for a seventh birdie in a round with no dropped shots. Still, a first-round 72 on Thursday left the 1999 European Masters winner too far back to challenge.

"On the first day I was a bit rusty," Westwood acknowledged. "I haven't played much golf for four weeks before coming here."

Westwood and Willett plan to play one more tournament before the Ryder Cup starts Sept. 30 at Hazeltine, Minnesota. Both will take one week off, then return at the Italian Open, played Sept. 15-18 at Monza.

"I'm looking forward to another week off for practice and then to Italy," Willett said, after a round had begun with bogey-5s at the first two holes.


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