By Tony Jimenez
WATFORD, England (Reuters) - Alexander Noren underlined his status as Europe's hottest golfer by grabbing a third victory in eight events at the British Masters on Sunday, becoming the first man to win three times on the tour in 2016.
The 34-year-old took a three-stroke lead into the final round at The Grove course just outside London and the Swede was never headed as he compiled a closing two-under-par 69 for an 18-under aggregate of 266.
Noren, who also won the Scottish Open in July and last month's European Masters in Switzerland, finished two strokes clear of Austrian Bernd Wiesberger (67).
Former world number one Lee Westwood ended a miserable run of form as a 67 secured third place on 269, two ahead of fellow Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood and Richard Bland, Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, Alexander Levy, of France, and Swede Peter Hanson.
Asked if he could ever have imagined winning three times in one season, Noren replied: "No, I didn't see that.
"I'll never believe in myself that much to believe it, it's amazing to be here now. I know golf is a tough game and I'll try to stay humble."
After torrential overnight rain left some greens flooded, causing a brief suspension in play, Noren served early notice of his intentions with a birdie-birdie blast at the start.
The Swede, who has also reeled off seven top 10-finishes in his last 15 appearances, then suffered a hiccup with bogeys at the eighth and 11th.
Wiesberger joined him at the top of the leaderboard with a birdie at the par-five 15th but Noren, playing in the group behind, responded immediately with a four at the same hole.
He then picked up the first prize of 500,000 pounds ($621,750), and the seventh European Tour title of his career, after signing off with another birdie four at the last.
"The big thing is you don't have to play a perfect game," said Noren. "You just have to have a few parts of your game strong to get a win.
"My putting was probably the best thing this week, I holed a lot of putts. Maybe my driving wasn't the best but I didn't lose that much ground because of it."
Westwood was delighted to find his form again after missing the cut in his last two strokeplay tournaments and performing poorly when Europe were beaten 17-11 by the United States at the Ryder Cup in Minnesota earlier this month.
"I played really well this week, hit the ball well tee to green," he said. "It was just one of those weeks where I feel like I didn't hole enough putts from 15 to 25 feet."
($1 = 0.8042 pounds)
(Editing by Ian Chadband)