Marc Warren and Justin Rose share the lead going into the final round of the 2014 Scottish Open.
Glasgow man Warren and former US Open champion Rose carded rounds of 67 and 66 respectively to lead by one on ten-under-par from Sweden’s Kristoffer Broberg with just 18 holes to play at Royal Aberdeen.
For Warren, victory would be sweet redemption after his painful collapse in the same tournament at Castle Stuart two years ago. For Rose, the win would be his second in a row – he won the Quicken Loans National at Congressional three weeks ago – and send him into next week’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool as, categorically, golf’s form player.
Warren, 33, admits that it would be a monumental achievement to win his national open, a tournament he refers to as his ‘fifth major’.
“For us Scottish guys, it doesn’t get much better than this,” said the two-time European Tour winner. “I’m very excited and playing with Justin Rose will really add to the occasion. Hopefully, I’ll have the home support right behind me.”
“Today was as good as I’ve played in a long time." - Justin Rose
Warren played the front nine in a flawless two-under-par but coughed up shots at 14 and 18 to drop back to ten-under for the championship.
“It was all a bit scrappy towards the end and I got into a few fairway bunkers, which is as good as a one-shot penalty around here, but I’m a great position going tomorrow and I just can’t wait,” he added.
After a steady front nine, Rose played the trickier back nine in four-under-par. That, he says, gives him plenty of confidence ahead of the final round.
“Today was as good as I’ve played in a long time,” said the Englishman. “That round , and the second at Congressional, are probably about the two best rounds I’ve played all year. I felt like I got it close to the hole many, many times out there, which, on a links course, is tough to do. So, I’m really happy with the way my game has progressed throughout the week.
“The course is a lot of fun to play, I feel like I’ve really got my head around it, we’ve played it in both winds, and I think I’ve got to know most of the lines off the tees.”
Making his 66 all the more impressive was the fact that Rose has been suffering with hayfever.
“The last coupled of weeks, I’ve really struggled,” he admitted. “I had a little bit of a headache today and I’m beginning to get sinus pain, so I need to get on top of it before next week.”
Broberg will partner little-known Englishman Tyrrell Hatton – a further two shots adrift in fourth, on seven-under - in the penultimate group, with overnight Scottish Open co-leader Ricardo Gonzalez on six-under after a level-par 71. He will play alongside Scotland’s Craig Lee, below. Like Hatton and Rose, he shot a 66 to propel himself into contention for the title. The Stirling man covered each nine in just 33 strokes, picking up birdies at the second, sixth, ninth, 11th and 13th.
“I played really nicely today,” he said. “I hit a lot of good shots and I probably left a few putts out there as well. But I made a few nice ones, so it kind of evened itself out to quite a good score.”
A win would give Lee his long-awaited maiden victory on the European Tour and, whilst he maintained he’d felt at ease during his third round, he admitted that coming down the stretch on Sunday would be ‘a different kettle of fish’.
“I’m sure the little heart will be pounding but, hopefully, on the outside I’ll still look relatively calm,” he added.
Rory McIlroy recovered from bogeying the first to post a three-under 68 and give himself an outside chance of winning at Royal Aberdeen.
“I need a really low round tomorrow." - Phil Mickelson
The first round leader, after a course record 64, played the back nine in six fewer shots in round three as compared with round two and admitted he was relieved to steady the ship.
“I was one-over through two holes but, after that, I played really solid golf,” noted the Northern Irishman. “I didn’t put myself in much trouble. I made four birdies on the way in and no bogeys, so yeah, you could say that it was much steadier than yesterday.”
At two-under-par, Phil Mickelson will need to emulate Graeme McDowell - who overcame an eight-shot 54-hole deficit to win the French Open last week - if he is to successfully defend his title. The American knows a big final round is in order.
“I need a really low round tomorrow,” said the five-time major winner. “It’s going to have to be eight or nine-under-par. But I think that it’s out there and I’ll be off early enough to maybe make some noise. I’ve just got to get off to a hot start.”
Like Mickelson, Scottish trio Russell Knox, Scott Jamieson and Stephen Gallacher are also on two-under.
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