Saturday, 14 July 2012
Francesco Molinari  (Getty Images)
Francesco Molinari (Getty Images)
Francesco Molinari once again sparkled with a third round 67 to move into the lead in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.

The Italian ended last week with an astonishing 64, that started with a double bogey, at the Alstom Open de France and has continued that incredible form at the Castle Stuart Golf Links.

Molinari hit a brilliant ten under 62 in his first round and, despite a triple bogey, managed a 70 yesterday.

He continued his oustanding charge today, with a par on one being followed by back-to-back birdies after sensational tee shots.

Aided by his typically excellent long game, Molinari has enjoyed arguably the best run of his career with the putter recently.

That was a key factor in the 29-year-old finding two further birdies on the front nine, which he followed up with another immediately after the turn.

He played solidly thereafter, creating birdie chances aplenty but settling for pars to finish on 17 under.

Molinari is undoubtedly desperate to win tomorrow, but, regardless, will take great heart from perfect preparation for next week’s 141st Open Championship.

“My golf and my form are getting better and better,” he said. “Obviously it’s a very good time to be playing this well, and I’ll just see how it goes tomorrow.

“But however it goes, I know I’m going to be at Lytham playing well and so it’s just a case of keep doing the same stuff and see what happens.

“I think for the moment, obviously to win here is the first goal.  But it’s good to know, not only from this week, but from last week, as well, that I’m playing well and putting well.”

The birdie at ten took Molinari into the outright lead ahead of Alexander Noren, who had previously matched his playing partner shot for shot.

Yet the Swede could not compete with Molinari's consistency in the end; pars on ten and 11 were followed by a poor tee shot at the next that left many searching through the bushes.

Alas, the ball was not found and Noren subsequently compounded matters with an equally disappointing approach.

He eventually triple bogeyed the long par five and, after picking up shots at 16 and 17, was two adrift of Molinari and one behind Anders Hansen in second.

Dane Hansen continued his round-upon-round improvement with a 65 that meant he was one behind the impressive Molinari.

“I played steady today and did not make many mistakes and just kept the ball in play and gave myself some opportunities, and so it was pretty steady,” he said.

“It's a new day tomorrow.  We’ll see what is going to happen. Francesco is obviously playing very, very good golf at the moment. I had a great finish last week, so it’s going to be fun to play with him.

“It’s very, very difficult (to pick a winner). The scores are so low. It’s very difficult to keep making putts and to keep making birdies.” 

His superb 65 effort, however, could not match those of countryman Søren Kjeldsen and Scot Marc Warren, who ended a further shot back on 15 under.

Both began knowing a surge would be necessary to challenge those at the top, and managed it by striking 64 apiece.

Kjeldsen could not have got off to a better start as he birdied the first four before the streak was ended with a par on the next.

Undeterred, he picked up shots on six , seven and eight, with a par on nine ensuring he turned in 29.

He was less spectacular on the back, producing two birdies and a bogey - an effort of calm that belied the earlier madness.

Kjeldsen is hoping for a fine day tomorrow as he targets the one qualification spot available for the Open.

“I would love to play,” he said. “If I play well tomorrow and I get in, it’s a bonus, but I have plans to have a little bit of a rest and be away from the game a little bit.  

“If I get the chance to go to Lytham, I will obviously smile and go at it.”

His partner, Warren, produced a dramatic finish; an eagle on 16 was followed by a bogey and a birdie.

He said: “Tt was one of the most stress free days really. I felt really in control of everything I was doing, which was different from the first two days.

“I felt like I was fighting it a little bit, especially off the tee.  But today drove it really well and had a lot of chances.” 

Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, left spectators delighted with a 65 to ensure he will begin right in contention on 14 under tomorrow.

Alongside Mickelson was Martin Laird, who also managed an impressive 64.

“I did exactly what I needed to to get myself back in the mix here,” said Laird. “My goal was to shoot a low one, and I obviously did that and I’m happy.

“I’ve got friends and family in the gallery but also the local people cheering me on.  It was great, seemed like every birdie I made, I picked up a few more people and it was great to hear them willing you on.”

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1SINGH, Jeev MilkhaIND18-17
2MOLINARI, FrancescoITA18-17
T3NOREN, AlexanderSWE18-16
T3WARREN, MarcSCO18-16
T5BALDWIN, MatthewENG18-15
T5LEVET, ThomasFRA18-15
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