With players battling cold and windy conditions at Blackstone Golf Club in South Korea, Alexander Noren carded a 3-under 69 to grab a one-shot lead heading into the final round of the Ballantine's Championship.
Noren, who beat Dustin Johnson 6 & 4 earlier this year at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, is no stranger to blustery conditions. The Swede has won three times on the European Tour, with his most recent title coming at the 2011 Nordea Masters where winds howled during the final round. Staked to an 11-shot lead entering the day, Noren went on to win by seven shots, despite closing with a 77.
'It was a long, tough day, a lot of wind,' he told reporters after the round. '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 day.'
While turning his lead into a victory is certainly the goal, Noren is also in position to pick up valuable world ranking points Sunday in South Korea. After climbing to as high as 49th in the world earlier this season, the Swede has now slipped to 60th entering this week's event. With the season's second major on the horizon, maintaining a spot in the top 60 will become increasingly important if Noren hopes to play in the U.S. Open for the third consecutive year. The top 60 in the world rankings on May 27 will be automatically exempt into the final field at Merion, with another cutoff including all players in the top 60 on June 10.
Among those chasing Noren are Pablo Larrazabal, who trails by a shot after carding the round of the day Saturday with a 4-under 68, and Louis Oosthuizen. The highest-ranked player in this week's field, Oosthuizen sits at 5-under 211 after three rounds, four shots off the pace heading into the final round.