Golf: Noren out in front at British Masters

Sweden's Alex Noren celebrates his birdie at the 18th hole during the third round.
Sweden's Alex Noren celebrates his birdie at the 18th hole during the third round.PHOTO: REUTERS

WATFORD, United Kingdom (AFP) - Sweden's Alex Noren put himself in position to become the first three-time European Tour winner this season in birdieing his closing two holes for a three-shot lead on the third day of the British Masters.

Noren holed a monster birdie putt on the last hole on The Grove course near Watford, north of London, as he completed a second straight six under par 65 for a 16-under par tally.

The 34-year-old, who became a father this year, captured July's Scottish Open and then late last month won the European Masters in Switzerland.

Noren started Saturday's third round in this £3 million (S$5 million) event one shot off the lead after taking a double bogey at his final hole on Friday.

Monaco-based Noren made up for some errant driving with a laser-like showing on the greens.

The now six-time Tour winner had three birdies in his opening 10 holes before also birdieing the 15th ahead of his superb finish.

"I struggled off the tee and seemed to be always landing my shots in the crowd, but I thought to myself, 'if I get it around, keep the putter good and there's a chance for tomorrow (Sunday)'," he said.

"On 18, it was an amazing feeling because I thought it was a tough putt, and you can easily three-putt that and come off with a sour taste in your mouth.

"So to see that putt drop feels great. I've three-putted those a lot of times, so sometimes you've got to get lucky.

"Looking at the leaderboard I am leading by three so hopefully the weather stays all right and there's not too much rain.

"But I know from experience that it's not that easy to hold leads. Anybody can come from behind and shoot eight-under. You never know. I'm just trying to work on the things I work on with my coach and with my caddie and if I manage to pull it off, I do, but otherwise, you know, you go on."

England's Richard Bland, in his 396th Tour event, has not given up hope of a maiden success in birdieing two of his closing four holes in a score of 69 that put him in second spot at 13-under par.

Four players - Sweden's Peter Hanson (66), Austria's Bernd Weisberger (67), South Africa's Richard Sterne (67) and England's Tommy Fleetwood (68) - are just a shot further back on 12-under par.

Meanwhile, England's Lee Westwood, rejuvenated after Europe's Ryder Cup defeat by the United States, could not be discounted in posting a 67 to share seventh place at 11-under par.

But crowd favourite Andrew 'Beef' Johnston had a disappointing day after finishing the second round in joint second place.

The Englishman, who got his start in golf at the nearby North Middlesex club, had three birdies but also three bogeys, including a 12th hole double bogey, in his score of 73 that left him withh a share of 15th place at eight under par.