Alex Noren was proud of his 3-under-par 67 on Saturday, with good reason.
“Starting out, it felt like it was going to be the toughest day ever on a golf course, with pretty strong winds on the first six, seven holes,” said the 38-year-old Swede, who is competing in his eighth U.S. Open. “Then it got a little bit easier... I putted my life out.”
Noren had missed the cut in five of his previous seven starts in this championship, with his best finish a tie for 25th in 2018 at Shinnecock Hills. But after he knocked his approach on No. 18 to 3 feet for a closing birdie, he gave himself a chance to improve on that finish. He stood in a tie for 17th as the leaders approached the turn in Round 3.
Noren said that a change in attitude helped him rebound from opening rounds of 72-74 that left him just inside the cut line at 6-over 146 (T-49).
“Yesterday I was a very angry man on the golf course, and my goal today was to putt better and be more – be in a little happier place,” said Noren, a 10-time winner on the PGA European Tour. “Whatever happens, you’ve got to keep the energy because you’ll need it down the round. Yesterday I was furious that I didn’t hit the shots that I wanted, and then it affects your game.”
As Noren noted, his putting propelled the round, as he gained 6.42 strokes on the field on the greens. He also kept his perspective about the challenge presented by a U.S. Open, thanks to experience.
“That's maybe the key to the whole thing; just view it as a normal tournament because, when you look at the putts, you look at the shots, and you stand on the tee boxes, there's a lot more pressure on yourself,” said Noren, who earned his spot in the championship through the Official World Golf Ranking (No. 87 as of Aug. 23). “You hit some shots out here, you think it’s a decent shot, and then you just make it into the rough, and all of a sudden, the hole feels impossible.”
Noren, whose last victory came in the 2018 Open de France, has changed his practice habits recently.
“I practiced on the golf course a little bit at home, trying to not be on the driving range, trying to work on situations more than a specific look of the swing,” said Noren. “It frees up my game. I don't look at my swing on a video camera, don't analyze. If the shots are good enough, I'm happy. If they're not, I go out and work on them.”
That work paid off in a major way in Round 3.