More late birdies give Noren the edge over pursuers

INVERNESS • Alex Noren will take a two-shot lead into the final round of golf's Scottish Open at a rainy Castle Stuart, after birdies at the final two holes on Saturday.

The Swede hit a stunning tee shot on the par-three 17th, before adding a birdie three at the last for a 68 to reach 12-under 204 for the tournament.

Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, one place above Noren at 98th in the world rankings, had five birdies and an eagle in a six-under third round of 66 to sit tied for second alongside Matteo Manassero, who fired a 68.

Noren's only win in the last five seasons came last year in the Scandinavian Masters, but after taking a one-stroke halfway advantage, he increased his lead in Scotland.

The 33-year-old had three birdies in his last four holes in the second round, and was similarly impressive in the closing stages on Saturday.

"To birdie the last and to go into tomorrow with a two-shot lead was very nice," said Noren.

"All I was trying to do was put in a good round and then deal with the weather that rolled in, but the good thing is, the course soaked up the rain, while other courses would have flooded.

"The thing is now that anyone who is six or seven under could shoot a good round, so I will be trying to do the same."

Italy's Manassero eagled the sixth and then birdied three holes in succession near the end of his third round to reach 10 under overall despite also carding three bogeys.

"It's exciting being up high on the leader board and with a chance of winning tomorrow, (it's) always exciting," he said.

The top four players in the top 12 this week who are not exempt for the British Open will get invites to Royal Troon for the tournament starting on Thursday.

Those spots were held by Manassero, Hatton, Justin Walters and Romain Wattel after 54 holes.

There were a host of top players still close enough to Noren to possibly mount a challenge.

Former Major champions Graeme McDowell (69) and Martin Kaymer (68) were only four and six shots back respectively, while world No. 6 Henrik Stenson fired a brilliant 66 to get to five under par.

American five-time Major champion and former Scottish Open winner Phil Mickelson had to settle for a two-under 70 and was tied for 51st place.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2016, with the headline 'More late birdies give Noren the edge over pursuers'. Print Edition | Subscribe