Noren’s challenge gathers pace on a slow day
Paul Lawrie slams pace of play at Ballantine’s Championship
Alexander Noren of Sweden hits his tee shot on the seventh hole during the third round of the Ballantine’s Championship at Blackstone Golf Club in Icheon, South Korea. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Noren carded a 69 to finish nine under par in the weather-delayed event at Blackstone Golf Club, making a birdie on the 18th to edge ahead of Scotland’s Peter Whiteford (69) and Spain’s Pablo Larrazabal (68).
The Swede’s group took almost five and a half hours to complete their rounds, with Lawrie furious about the slow pace of play.
Lawrie, who was on the edge of contention before dropping four shots in his last six holes, wrote on Twitter: “5 hours 16 mins to play today, absolute joke as ever, how many players penalised or fined —Zero #unacceptablepaceofplay.”
Noren, who won the last of his three European Tour titles on home soil in 2011, said: “I made a lot of par putts and they were very important. I struggled a little with the driver but it’s more important to hit these greens.
“The really tough thing here is to judge the wind on the second shots, it was tricky for the mind. I am really exhausted, it was a grind out there today.
“It’s so much fun to have a chance to win on Sunday and it’s going to be a good day tomorrow. When I was leading the first time in Portugal I thought it’s not good if I lose this, but somebody shot six under and wins. You have to just play your game and if you make more birdies than the other guy you win.”
Larrazabal’s 68 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 after weather delays on Thursday and Friday, the Scot 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.”
Australian duo Brett Rumford and Marcus Fraser are two shots off the pace on seven under, Rumford finishing in style with five birdies in succession as both players hailed the influence of compatriot Adam Scott.
“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.
Ireland’s Damien McGrane picked up three birdies on his back nine to move to three under after a 70, while Peter Lawrie goes into the final round on one under after a 74. Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley carded three bogeys and 15 pars in a 75 that left him on two over.