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GOLF

Jet-set Karlsson makes golf history

Robert Karlsson defied all the odds on Saturday as he hired a private jet back to Wentworth and shot a new course record 62 to grab a share of the lead at the European PGA Championship.

Jet-set Karlsson makes golf history

The 40-year-old Swede, three-over-par overnight after the second round, was convinced he had missed the cut and headed back home to Monaco on Friday afternoon.

He was 500 metres from his house when he learned he had made the cut and turned round without even seeing his wife, Ebba.

Karlsson flew to Paris, where the last scheduled flight to London had been cancelled, forcing him to pay $11,000 to hire a private plane early on Saturday morning from a nearby airport.

He arrived at Wentworth two hours before his tee time, after three disjointed hours of sleep, and made nine birdies to join Luke Donald, who teed off last in the afternoon, in the lead on six under par.

“I was having breakfast when (Danish professional) Soren Hansen said, ‘This trip has got 63 written all over it’,” said Karlsson.

“I was not happy on Friday night. But I felt as if I had a second chance and I wanted to go out and take it.

“My caddy said, ‘We have been invited back to this party — let’s party’.

“It is the most unexpected round of my career. It was not perfect and I was in trouble a number of times. I have played better but my putter was very, very hot.

“I have been in the situation before. You just make the cut and you can just go out and play and enjoy it — if you don’t play well, nobody cares.”

Karlsson admitted he briefly considered withdrawing when he got the text saying he had made the final two days and did not know how he was going to get to London, but the status of the tournament quickly made him return.

Luckily, his clubs were with caddy Gareth Lord, who drove back from Coventry to rejoin his employer.

He added: “Withdrawing was not an option. This is a Ryder Cup year, I am a former Ryder Cup player, and you can’t withdraw from our biggest event. That is just the way it is.”

Karlsson got to the turn in 30 and four more birdies on the back nine gave him the lowest round in the 55-year history of the championship, a new course record and equalled the lowest round shot on the European Tour this year.

He had a career-threatening eye problem last year and feared for his career until his sight was corrected by surgery and he won the Qatar Masters in February.

Elsewhere on the course South Korea’s Seung-yul Noh, out in the first group, shot a five-under-par 66 to move 50 places up the leaderboard to 13th, but no-one else could match Karlsson’s scoring over the new-look West Course.

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GOLF

Sweden’s Noren storms to French Open title as fellow Swede Kinhult falters

Sweden's Alex Noren came back from a seven-shot overnight deficit to claim a dramatic French Open victory at Le Golf National on Sunday, as the difficult closing stretch of the Ryder Cup course saw a host of challengers slip up.

Sweden's Noren storms to French Open title as fellow Swede Kinhult falters
Swedish golfer Alex Noren holds the trophy after winning the HNA Open de France, as part of the European Tour 2018, on Sunday. Photo: LUCAS BARIOULET / AFP
Fellow Swede Marcus Kinhult had entered Sunday's play with a two-shot lead but struggled through a five-over final round to end in a three-way tie for fifth.
 
World number 16 Noren fired a brilliant four-under 67 to reach seven-under par for the tournament, before sitting back and watching his rivals falter as he won by a single stroke.
 
The 35-year-old will be a key figure for Europe when the Ryder Cup gets underway on September 28, and he showed all his qualities by playing the last three holes in two-under.
 
The big-name pairing of Sergio Garcia and Jon Rahm both threatened, but the two Spaniards found water at the 18th, while world number two Justin Thomas never seriously contended.
 
Julian Suri, who was looking to become the first American winner of the event since Barry Jaeckel in 1972, went to the 72nd hole on eight-under but made a watery double-bogey, while England's Chris Wood also blew a late lead.
 
That handed Noren, who finished his fourth round 45 minutes before the final group, a 10th European Tour title and first since the BMW PGA Championship in May 2017, when he also fought back from seven shots behind on the final day.
 
Scotland's Russell Knox carded a final-round 65 earlier in the day to finish tied for second with Suri and Wood on six-under — enough to secure him a spot for the British Open at Carnoustie along with Kinhult and Suri.