Scottish Open: Alex Noren maintains lead at Castle Stuart

By Martin DowdenBBC Scotland at Castle Stuart
Sweden's Alex Noren
Noren shot a third-round 68 at Castle Stuart
Scottish Open third round leaderboard
-12 A Noren (Swe); -10 T Hatton (Eng) M Manassero (Ita); -9 J Walters (SA) D Lee (Eng); -8 G McDowell (N Ire) A Sullivan (Eng)
Selected others:-6 M Kaymer (Ger)R Ramsay (Sco)P Harrington (Ire) H Stenson (Swe); -4 R Knox (Sco)D Drysdale (Sco)L Donald (Eng); -1 P Mickleson (USA)
Full leaderboard

Sweden's Alex Noren held off several challenges to establish a two-stroke lead going into the final round at the Scottish Open.

The overnight leader shot a 68 in testing late afternoon conditions to reach 12 under par at Castle Stuart.

Englishman Tyrrell Hatton produced birdies on the final two holes to lie tied for second after a 66, with Italian Matteo Manassero alongside him.

Both men are seeking a place at next week's Open Championship.

Places at Royal Troon go to the leading four players not already qualified who finish in the top 12 and ties at Castle Stuart.

Justin Walters is another chasing an Open spot and the South African produced the joint-best round of the tournament, a 65, to lie three shots off the pace with Danny Lee.

With the strong winds of the first two days giving way to torrential downpours, Noren carded six birdies and two bogeys to double his advantage from Friday.

"I have learnt that when you lead on this tour it's not certain you are going to win but it would be a huge win for me," the world number 99 said.

"I would love to get a little higher in the rankings so I can get into the bigger tournaments so the scheduling is easier.

"I'm very happy. The last nine holes were very tough but at the same time the course played pretty much the same. Another course would have flooded."

Home challenge falters

Scotland's Richie Ramsay is within the top 10 after a round of 70 left him six shots off the pace, with compatriots Russell Knox and David Drysdale a further two shots adrift.

Drysdale impressed in early calm conditions with a round of 66, while Ramsay and Knox were left frustrated at opportunities missed.

"Played steady today but my game wasn't all there," Ramsay told BBC Scotland.

"I probably needed to be a little more aggressive at times, especially on the back nine, a little bit more belief but I hit some good shots and just didn't make putts of any length.

"Still lots to play for and I just need that little bit more belief and chase a low one tomorrow [Sunday]."

Much of the focus for home supporters has been on US-based Knox who started his third round yesterday at two under and picked up a further three strokes only to finish bogey, bogey, birdie for a round of 70.

"I threw away a couple out there when I didn't need to," he said. "I played better than two under, which is disappointing not to turn that into a score."

McDowell in the hunt

Former Scottish Open champion Graeme McDowell put a slow start behind him to finish strongly on eight under alongside Englishman Andy Sullivan.

"I knew guys were going low and getting off to such a slow start when the golf course was there for the taking," said Ryder Cup star McDowell.

"When the rain came on, I had no more frustration and managed to make a couple of putts and get going."