TRUCKEE, Calif. – Had Alex Noren stayed in Scotland, he would’ve competed at The 150th Open at St. Andrews.
But he was itching to play golf this week, his schedule including an upcoming three-week competitive hiatus as a training period into the FedExCup Playoffs. He was on the grounds at the Old Course and played nine holes early Tuesday morning as first alternate.
It wasn’t easy being at St. Andrews knowing his spot in the field was not guaranteed. It wasn’t an easy decision to leave, either. But it had been five days since anyone had withdrawn from The Open, and there wasn’t a clear indication that anyone else would.
Noren felt good about his game, believing his form was strong enough to contend this week on any setup. He took the proverbial bird in hand, withdrew from The Open alternate list and flew to California for the Barracuda Championship.
Justin Rose withdrew from The Open on Thursday morning with a back injury. He would have been replaced by Noren if the Swede had stayed on-site; he was replaced instead by Rikuya Hoshino. Erik van Rooyen withdrew later in the day and was replaced by Aaron Rai.
Noren admits there were conflicting emotions when he learned this news Thursday, and he was slow to start the Barracuda Championship – standing at net 0 points through 14 holes of the opening round at Tahoe Mountain Club (Old Greenwood). He made two birdies on his final four holes, though, to gain a spark, and a 12-point performance Friday (six birdies, no bogeys) moved him into a tie for 11th through 36 holes in the TOUR’s only Modified Stableford scoring event.
Noren, 40, made his decision and lived with it. He has recorded five top-25s in 10 career Open appearances and has played in 32 majors overall. He competed at the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews, as well. He intends on playing in several more majors.
Not to say the experience hasn’t been a bit bittersweet.
“It was a weird week,” reflected Noren after Friday’s second round in Truckee. “I was going to get into (The Open) and then it was just confusing (Thursday), weird emotions, because I couldn’t stand being there, and it was too good of an event, and I knew this was a good event , too. I just wanted to play somewhere, make sure I could play somewhere.
“I booked a flight Tuesday morning. It took so long because I was first booked from Thursday even to Wednesday, so nothing happened for over a — just like a week. I didn’t think anybody would withdraw. They actually did, and sad for them, but also I wanted to play this. I wanted to get some more points. I’ve got three weeks of training after this before the (FedExCup) Playoffs, and I wanted to play this week, and maybe that mindset made me have a little less patience that I needed this time.
“Golf is a long career, and I’ve played a lot of (Open Championships), and I’ll get to play it again.”