Alexander Noren (Getty Images)
Sweden’s Alex Noren will take a one shot lead into the final round of the Ballantine’s Championship after a rollercoaster third day at Blackstone Golf Club.
With the tournament making up for lost time after delays on Thursday and Friday, half the field had to complete their second rounds early this morning – Kiradech Aphibarnrat and José Manuel Lara joining Wade Ormsby and Arnond Vongvanij in the halfway lead on seven under par by the time it was completed.
Noren, who was able to complete his first 36 holes yesterday and was just one behind at the start of round three, took advantage of his later start to shoot a three under par 69 and reach nine under for the week.
“It was a nice way to finish, and it was a long, tough day, a lot of wind,” said the 30 year old, after finishing his round with a birdie at the 18th. “My short game I think held it together, and I didn't have that many chances but I took care of them when I got chances for birdies and made the important pars when I needed. So it was a big fight day.
“I'm just trying to play well tomorrow, and it's going to be a really fun day. I haven't been in the lead in a long time, and I've had some good finishes, but it will be a lot of fun. But I'm just trying to play good and make birdies and try to make more birdies than the other ones.”
The three-time European Tour champion has an impressive record in the Ballantine’s Championship, finishing seventh last year and fifth in 2011, and he is now aiming to convert that form into silverware.
“It's easier for a player to come back when you've done something good in the past,” he added. “You know you can score well around the track and good memories are always nice to have with you.”
Spaniard Pablo Larrazábal and Scot Pete Whiteford shot 68 and 69 respectively to be only one back going into the final day, with Australia’s 2010 winner Marcus Fraser and his compatriot Brett Rumford sharing fourth on seven under.
Larrazábal’s was the lowest score of the third round and gives the 29 year old the chance of a third European Tour title.
"I hit the ball beautifully today," he said. "I'm very happy with the round and to be in the fight again. I only missed one green in regulation which was something special.
"It will be good to be in the final group again, it's been a long time."
Whiteford was one of the players who had to complete their second rounds this morning, playing 28 holes in total.
"I was on the 5am bus, first bus in, last bus out it looks like," Whiteford said. "It's been a long day but that's the job every now and then.
"My form has been pretty average, poor to be honest. I was hitting it half decent on the range and just not taking anything to the golf course, but this week has been better."
Rumford finished in style with five birdies in succession and both he and Fraser hailed the influence of compatriot Adam Scott following his victory at Augusta National.
"With Adam winning the Masters it has inspired us all," said Rumford, who was two over for the day before his brilliant finish.
"The last couple of days have been interesting. It's been pretty frustrating but rewarding at the same time. Hopefully tomorrow I can just eliminate all the silly errors."
World Number Seven Louis Oosthuizen, the pre-tournament favourite, is four off the lead after carding his second consecutive 71 to finish five under.