(Reuters) – Swede Alex Noren birdied the last two holes to break clear of a tightly bunched leaderboard and move two strokes in front after the third round of the Scottish Open in Inverness on Saturday.
The 33-year-old, a four-times winner on the European Tour, fired a four-under-par 68 at Castle Stuart Golf Links to end a wildly fluctuating day of early sunshine and heavy rain showers in the afternoon with a 12-under total of 204.
England’s Tyrrell Hatton (66) and Italian Matteo Manassero (68) were tied for second, with New Zealand’s Danny Lee (70) and South African Justin Walters (65) a further stroke back at nine-under.
Five players held at least a share of the lead during a topsy-turvy third round but Noren, who had been one ahead overnight, reclaimed top spot with birdies at the par-three 17th and the par-five last.
“I’m very happy,” Noren told reporters. “The last nine was very tough… when you think that there are not that many brutal holes, it’s just that the easier holes get tougher, the medium holes get tougher, it’s really just about staying dry.
“The course played pretty much the same though. It stayed dry, and maybe another course would have flooded, so it’s pretty nice to play on these surfaces in this weather.
“It would be a huge win for me and in terms of ranking points, the biggest. So that’s what I’m trying to do, to win.”
Five-times major winner Phil Mickelson of the United States, a regular visitor to the Scottish Open, carded a 70 to end the third round a distant 11 strokes off the pace.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Ken Ferris)