Watford - 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
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
Noren started Saturday's third round in this $3.6
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 leader board 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
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.
Leading third round scores in the European Tour British Masters at The Grove club, Watford, north of London on Saturday (GBR/IRL unless stated, par 71):
197 - Alex Noren (SWE) 67-65-65
200 - Richard Bland 67-64-69
201 - Peter Hanson (SWE) 70-65-66, Bernd Wiesberger (AUT) 68-66-67, Richard Sterne (RSA) 66-68-67, Tommy Fleetwood 66-67-68
202 - Marcel Siem (GER) 69-68-65, Lee Westwood 67-68-67
203 - Graeme McDowell 68-68-67
204 - Jorge Campillo (ESP) 71-66-67, Marc Warren 66-69-69, Alexander Levy (FRA) 70-66-68, Tyrrell Hatton 68-66-70, Scott Jamieson 68-65-71
205 - Pelle Edberg (SWE) 69-69-67, Shane Lowry 68-70-67, Soren Kjeldsen (DEN) 68-69-68, Lee Slattery 67-70-68, Andrew Johnston 67-65-73