The thrill of playing in the Masters for the first time has worn off, which should improve Alex Noren’s chances of contending this year at Augusta National Golf Club.
“Last year maybe I was just too happy just to be able to see it,” said the Swede, who shot 74-78 and missed the cut by two shots.
There is another reason why the 35-year-old should improve his scores. Already a proven winner on the European Tour (nine career wins), he has been one of the best players on the PGA Tour this season.
“Obviously a different start this year than last year to the season,” Noren said. “I’m looking forward to it. My expectations are obviously higher than last year.”
Noren has been knocking on the door for his first PGA Tour win in the pre-Masters run-up. He lost in a six-hole playoff to Jason Day at Torrey Pines in late January and finished third in the Honda Classic a month later.
“It’s great being able to play against the best players in the world, and that’s always been my goal,” Noren said. “All the majors are like that, when you play a major, everybody is coming. Obviously Augusta is a smaller field, but the world’s best players are there.
“That was my goal coming into the season, just to be able to play with these guys on these courses, and prove to myself that I can do it and I’m just going to try to get that win.”
Asked when he thinks Noren will win on the PGA Tour, Tommy Fleetwood said, “It’s got to be a matter of time, doesn’t it?”
Fleetwood, Europe’s top player last season, is one of Noren’s best friends in golf and knows the progress he has made and isn’t surprised to see him residing inside the top 20 in the world ranking.
“He’s been doing great,” Fleetwood said. “He’s one of our best players from the European side. I played with him at Honda when we both came close. He’s close. He’s very close.”
Noren said missing out on wins at Torrey Pines and the Honda could have been looked at as frustrating, but the experiences were “mostly positive. It’s a lot better start to the season than I could have imagined.
"I would have loved to have won, but those were two good finishes. Just playing a bit more in America gets you more equipped for Augusta.”
Because of the weather in the practice rounds and the windy first two rounds of last year’s Masters, Noren found that “the golf course was such a tough one to learn. I definitely needed more experience, maybe around the greens. I tried to play enough practice rounds down there, but when they put that tournament speed on there, you really need to know the greens. Still, it was a special week. I’m looking forward to coming back and knowing the place a bit more.”
Has he thought about the possibility of being the first Swede to win the Masters?
“Everyone wanted to be the first Swede to win a major, then Henrik (Stenson) did it (at the British Open) so that’s out of the way," Noren said. "That would be unbelievable to win the Masters.”