Copy My New Game Plan
Alex Noren got himself into the world top 10 by shunning the range and taking a unique approach to his swing. He explains how to copy his success...
Ten years ago, if you asked those in the know who had the best swings in the game, you’d get a list of the usual suspects led by Adam Scott and
Louis Oosthuizen. Those with a deeper understanding of the game in Europe might well have added the name of Alex Noren, too.
The Swede’s motion wasn’t just effortlessly smooth and technically sound, it was also functional, serving him very well as a successful amateur and fledgling pro. But hiding beneath the elegance was turmoil.
Noren was obsessed with grinding. He just loved long hours on the range – and didn’t know when to stop. Hardly a crime for a Tour pro, you might think – it has hardly done Vijay Singh any harm. But it was harming Noren, in two ways. First, he developed tendinitis in his wrist, and required surgery; he played in only two tournaments in 2014. And secondly, he was close to suffering paralysis by analysis. Having followed a largely upward curve from 2007 to 2011, with two wins that year, he stalled. Even before his injury-ravaged 2014, he’d had a poor 2013 by the standards of a man seemingly on the rise. And we know golf is full of players who came close to the summit then stagnated – and before you know it, their name surprisingly turns up on a satellite tour.
Yet last year, you might recall seeing his name in the headlines a lot. That’s because the 34-year-old was the hottest player in Europe during the most important part of the season.
He won four times on the European Tour to leap from 122 in the world in 2015 to ninth at the end of 2016. He is currently eighth after a solid Players Championship debut and a dazzling win in the BMW PGA at Wentworth, performances that proved 2016 was no fluke.
His hot streak has rarely been witnessed in modern times. It began at July’s Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, and his form continued when he got to the final of Paul Lawrie Match Play in early August. He then claimed September’s Omega European Masters and completed his summer of incredible success with the high-calibre British Masters at The Grove. The Nedbank Challenge followed in November. Having won four times in his first 215 European
Tour events, Noren had claimed four titles from 11 starts! It earned him his first Masters invitation and marked him as a strong favourite to make his Ryder Cup debut in 2018, having missed out on the 2016 side despite being the continent’s most in-form player.
Then last month, he shot a closing 62, the lowest round in BMW history and his joint-lowest round ever, to storm through the field and win at Wentworth. Fifteen greens in regulation and 24 putts led to eight birdies and an eagle for his fifth win since last July – only world No.1 Dustin Johnson comes close to match it.
He has achieved it all using an unconventional method – and the exciting news for all of us is not only that we can all easily copy it, but also that it couldn’t be any less laborious to implement. In his own words, this is the unusual route Noren took from quiet journeyman to superstar...
The tendinitis I suffered in my wrist was very frustrating and surgery was a last resort, but there was never a point where
I was considering my whole future as a tour golfer. I was never really worried about playing again. I was quite realistic, though
– I knew it was a long way back, but at the same time I knew if I worked hard, did the right things and went in the right direction, I could play well again. I never doubted
that. When I was healed and able to start my comeback, I had to develop a slightly different movement through the ball. But the biggest change I made was in my practice routine, as I explain in my five tips on this and the previous page.
I play competitive practice rounds here and there, but not so much. I still play with my friends, but for fun. I thought I would lose my competitiveness between tournaments if I didn’t compete in ‘social’ rounds. But I think we play enough competitive rounds in our careers. Instead, I work on improving my shots in ‘social’. I think copying that could help anyone.
In my #1 advice, I mention how the birth of my kid made a difference. The big proof to me that my mentality is now a lot different was when I started winning last year I didn’t feel the same excitement. Before, it meant so much; every result meant so much. Now it is more like “OK” and it just meant less to me. Because I don’t care how it goes as much, I can focus better on the important things. It is not so life dependent and it sounds a bit like I don’t care, but I know when I am on the first tee I really care. It’s just that after a round I really don’t care as much as I used to. Whether it is 70 or 65 or 75 doesn’t matter like it used to.
Winning four times surprised me, though. It was not in my thinking and it has been a little odd coming to tournaments this year with people saying “you are ranked this and this”. I was never really that guy before so it put a little extra pressure on myself. It has helped that I now have had a little bit of success in America. Before, I wasn’t sure if I was ever good enough for America because, while the European Tour is very strong, I am so much more comfortable on it, therefore it is easier to have success there. With more starts over in America, I feel more comfortable now.
BMW PGA champ Alex Noren signed to wear Nike apparel and shoes at the start of 2017.