Justin Rose set up a chance to capture back-to-back titles by shooting a five-under 66 at the Scottish Open on Saturday to move into a share of the lead with home hopeful Marc Warren after three rounds.
Rose and Warren (67) are on 10-under-par overall at the warm-up tournament for the British Open, one shot clear of Kristoffer Broberg of Sweden (68).
Nearly three weeks after winning the Quicken Loans National at Congressional to end a year-long drought, Rose has kept up his strong form, despite struggling with hayfever and sinus pains.
The South-Africa born Englishman’s round was the joint lowest of the day and he had the best back nine of the field — a 31 containing five birdies that was some effort considering it was into the wind off the North Sea.
“Probably my second round at Congressional and this round are two of the best I’ve played all year,” said Rose, whose last victory before Congressional was at last year’s US Open at Merion. “I felt like I got it close to the hole many times out there, which on a links course is hard to do. I’m on a nice little run right now. To keep it going would be fantastic.”
Warren, who held a three-shot lead midway through the third round, is looking to avenge a final-round collapse at his home Scottish Open in 2012. He also had near misses from good positions at the Spanish Open and the BMW PGA Championship last year.
Warren would likely have enjoyed the support of the majority of the crowd in what was to be an England versus Scotland contest yesterday.
“For a Scottish guy, it doesn’t get much better than this. It’s our fifth major,” said Warren, whose two victories on the European Tour came in 2006 and 2007. “Playing with Justin Rose will just add to the occasion as well.”
Conditions were much more benign than on Friday, but Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy (68) and defending champion Phil Mickelson of the IS (70) were unable to mount considerable challenges to the leaders and are seven and eight shots off the lead respectively.
Nevertheless, both are happy with their links game ahead of the British Open at Hoylake.
“I have shot a 64 and a 68 on this golf course, two really good scores,” said McIlroy, who followed up his course-record score in the first round with a 78 on Friday. “It would be nice to shoot another one good tomorrow ... but I feel good with my game and I see enough positives in there to give me confidence going in.”
Tyrrell Hatton of England is in fourth on seven-under after a 66 at the Royal Aberdeen Golf Club.
While Warren has picked up a reputation for cracking under pressure, the No. 6-ranked Rose is increasingly becoming known as a winner of tough courses.
His resume includes victories at Merion, Doral, Valderrama, Muirfield Village and most recently Congressional, and that makes him the favorite to win.
“This would hold its own among the courses I have won on,” Rose said. “I’ll take pride on winning on a links course, that is for sure.”
Rose has been struggling with hayfever since returning from the US two weeks ago and wore sunglasses in the third round despite it being foggy. He said Saturday was the worst he had felt all week.
“I felt a little bit achy, a little bit of a headache and sinus pain,” Rose said. “I need to get on top of it before next [this] week.”
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