Swede Alexander Noren emerged from the pack with a flawless back nine display to take a one stroke lead into the final round of the Ballantine’s Championship in Korea.
The 29 year old birdied the last hole for a superb third round of 69 in windy conditions at Blackstone Golf Club in Icheon, near Seoul, finishing on nine under par 207.
That meant he edged clear of Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal, whose 68 was the lowest round of the day, and Scotland’s Peter Whiteford, who signed for a round of 69.
At one point ten players were tied for the lead, but it will be Noren who holds the advantage after mastering the conditions, carding birdies on 12th, 14th and 18th holes on his way in after reaching the turn in level par.
“My short game I think held it together today,” he said. “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 today.”
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 said. “You know you can score well around the track and good memories are always nice to have with you.”
He added: “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, but I’ve had some good finishes, so it will be a lot of fun. I’m just trying to play good and make birdies and try to make more birdies than the other ones.”
Larrazabal, meanwhile, tends to thrive in tough, windy conditions and he will be hoping for more of the same on Sunday as he bids for a third European Tour title.
“I love this game and I love to fight for tournaments,” he said. “That’s the fun part of this game and that’s the fun part of being a professional golfer.
“So tomorrow will be a great day. To be in the final group in one of the most important tournaments on The European Tour schedule here in Asia, it will be very special.”
Whiteford carded five birdies in his round and after a difficult season to date – he only has one top 20 finish so far in 2013 – he is relishing being in contention in Korea.
“It’s been pretty average, or poor, to be honest this season,” he said. “I’ve been hitting it half decent on the range most of the year and just not taking it out on the golf course. This week it’s better. It’s nice to sort of hit it on the course like I have been on the range, which is pleasing.”
Australian pair Brett Rumford and Marcus Fraser are also in contention on seven under par after both players carded rounds of 69, with Rumford particularly impressive in responding to bogeys on the 12th and 13th holes by then birdieing each of his final five holes.
South African Louis Oosthuizen, the World Number Seven, will start the final round four shots off the pace in a share of eighth position after mixed fortunes in his one under par round of 71.
The 2010 Open Champion posted six birdies but dropped shots on the seventh and 11th holes in addition to a double bogey six on the 13th.
“I’ve been hitting the ball probably the best I’ve been in a while but just missing loads of putts,” he said.
“But still, there are a lot of positives. It’s not over yet and there are still 18 holes tomorrow. If the wind keeps the way it is, it’s tough out there, especially the back nine. Today I played well and I just made one bad swing at a horrible time.”
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