The Swedes are coming.
Seven days after 23-year-old Ludvig Åberg claimed his first professional victory in the Omega European Masters, his 25-year-old compatriot Vincent Norrman set a target that none of the leaders could equal to triumph in what was, his performance aside, a peculiarly flat Horizon Irish Open finale at The K Club in Kildare, Ireland.
The fourth round had started in fine fashion, beneath blue skies, with good crowds and the field warming up for what seemed set to be a furious charge to the finish line.
A 90-minute delay, called with lightning in the area and the last group on the fourth hole, was not initially perceived as a threat to low scoring, with television’s ex-pros and experts predicting that a wet course would be vulnerable to the big hitters and aggressive approaches.
In reality, however, only Norrman took advantage.
When called back to the clubhouse, the Swede was 2-under for his round through nine holes, sharing 10th place with eight other golfers on 9-under for the week, and three shots back of a four-way tie at the top of the leaderboard which included Rory McIlroy and overnight leader Hurly Long.
Upon his return, Norrman birdied four of his first five holes (to make it six par-breakers in eight holes). He added a final red number at the par-5 18th to complete a bogey-free final round of 7-under 65 and a 14-under total of 274.
Then he waited another 90 minutes to see whether anyone could match it, and nobody did.
Unlike the winner, the contenders just couldn’t keep bogeys (or worse) from their cards. Such errors did for the bids of Grant Forrest, Ryan Fox, Thriston Lawrence and local favourite Shane Lowry, all of whom shared third.
Germany’s Long saved his DP World Tour card for next year with solo second, but he fell one shot shy of forcing extra holes.
“I thought I was a little lucky there,” Norrman conceded before adding with a grin: “I got a lot of good practice completed while I waited to see what happened though.”
He also explained that the break had worked in his favour.
“When I got back on the course,” he said, “I was flushing it.”
Although it was his maiden triumph in Europe, Norrman actually claimed his second DP World Tour title, after winning the PGA Tour co-sanctioned Barbasol Championship in July. The two successes have enabled him to break into the world’s top 100, and he is now ranked seventh on the Race to Dubai.
McIlroy, who posted a third-round 66 to get himself into Sunday’s final three-ball, notably failed to repeat his K Club victory charge of 2016.
That triumph featured a majestic approach to the par-5 16th hole and, in horrible contrast, this time he chopped his way down the hole, eventually scratching an 8 on his card, destroying his already slim hopes in the process.
McIlroy signed for a 74 and finished the week tied for 16th. His victory seven years ago remains his only top-five finish on the island of Ireland in 15 professional tournament starts.
There was better news for Lowry, who carded a trio of 68s on his way to a best championship Irish Open finish since his win on debut as an amateur in 2009. The top-three also was his best result for the calendar year.
As such, it was a timely confidence boost ahead of his defence of the BMW PGA Championship next week at Wentworth and the Ryder Cup in two weeks, especially given that some observers considered his wild-card selection for Rome to be somewhat fortunate or even controversial.