Alex Noren won the first ever Rolex Series event as a stunning closing 62 handed him a two-shot victory at the BMW PGA Championship.
The Swede entered Sunday seven shots off the lead but eight birdies in his first 16 holes had him in a tie for top spot before he produced one of the great moments on Wentworth Club’s famous 18th.
He put his second shot to six feet to send the bumper crowd into raptures and the resulting eagle putt handed him a two-shot lead and piled the pressure on the chasing pack.
After three days of glorious sunshine on the revamped West Course, heavy rain began to fall as the final groups made the turn and nobody could stop Noren claiming an ultimately convincing ninth European Tour victory.
Italy’s Francesco Molinari had a birdie-birdie finish to emerge as the closest challenger, with Open champion Henrik Stenson, Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and Japanese Hideto Tanihara finishing at eight under.
With the changes made to the West Course, the lowest round this week was always destined to be the course record but Noren’s closing effort also equals the lowest round in any of the layout’s guises and is the lowest final round ever on the course.
The 62 is also Noren’s joint-lowest round on Tour and was reminiscent of last season’s Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player where he finished with a 63 to win a fourth event of 2016.
Noren made a bright start with gains on the first, second, fourth and seventh helping him reach the turn in 31. The 34 year old added a hat-trick of gains from the 12th and when he rolled a stunning effort left-to-right up the hill on the 16th, he shared the lead before his big finish.
“It feels amazing and crazy because I had no intention of trying to win this morning,” said Noren, who has won five of his last 17 European Tour events. “I didn’t even think about it when I came off the course quite angry yesterday after playing a good round and chipping it into the water from the back of the green on 18. It’s a great feeling now but it feels unreal.
“It’s a tough course mentally coming down the stretch. It’s not super narrow but it’s just if you hit it a little bit wayward it can cost you. I putted probably the best I’ve ever putted.
“This tournament in my mind compares a lot with a Major. The only thing I’ve wanted to do is play better against tougher fields and tougher courses and I view this as a very difficult course against a top field.
“So my confidence goes up and just to work towards my goals and improve on my weaknesses and my strengths and try to figure out where I’m losing shots and gaining shots.
“That’s what I’ve always needed, to believe in myself, then it’s easier to focus on what you need to do.”
When Noren made that closing eagle, he broke out of a four-way tie for the lead alongside overnight leader Andrew Dodt, South African Branden Grace and Ireland’s Shane Lowry, with all three men having enough holes left to overturn his lead.
But Grace made a double-bogey on the 12th after finding trouble in a hazard, Lowry made a double on the 15th after going out of bounds and followed it with another on the 17th, and Dodt surrendered two strokes on the 14th.
Molinari bogeyed the third but birdies on the fourth, eighth, 12th, 17th and last helped hand him his fifth top ten in the last six BMW PGA Championships.
Colsaerts had a double-bogey on the card at the 15th but he countered it with eagles on the 12th and 18th and birdies on the first, fourth, seventh, ninth, 14th and 16th in a 65.
Swede Stenson looked primed to make a charge at nine under with six holes to play but bogeys on the 13th and 15th halted his momentum before he birdied the last.
Tanihara was also nine under after 12 holes but he bogeyed the 15th to finish a shot ahead of Australian Dodt, Lowry and England’s Graeme Storm.
Grace, fellow South African Dean Burmester and England’s Ross Fisher completed the top ten at six under.