Scottish Open: Warren & Rose set for thrilling finale

By Tom EnglishBBC Scotland at Royal Aberdeen
Marc Warren with some of his fans
Warren is greeted as he approaches the 18th tee on day three of the Scottish Open

Their golfing stories could scarcely be more different, but nothing separates Marc Warren and Justin Rose going into the final round of the Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen.

They will go out in the last group on Sunday, locked together on 10-under and one clear of the field.

It's the nearly man of this tournament two years ago against the major champion.

The Scot Warren, who stumbled and fell when he had the Scottish Open at his mercy at Castle Stuart, versus the Englishman with a US Open title to his credit as proof of his nerves of steel in the heat of battle on attritional golf courses.

Warren is in the field at Hoylake next week and will go to the Open Championship in confident mood no matter what happens on Sunday in Aberdeen. Rose will surely travel south in the belief that he can not only compete, but win.

Justin Rose plays a bunker shot at the fifth hole in the Scottish Open third round
Rose has been battling hay fever as well as the wind and sand at Royal Aberdeen

His golf in the third round was outrageously good. The back nine at Royal Aberdeen is a fiendishly difficult stretch but Rose made it look easy. He took a mere 31 shots on that run and said it was as well as he's played all year.

Rose's form has been wondrous given he's been suffering from hay fever all week. He's sniffled his way round the golf course. "I'm struggling," he said. "I had the glasses on and I struggled to read the greens on the last two or three holes. Once I start a round with glasses I like to finish the round with them.

"But as the sky got more grey I took my glasses off and I didn't realise how dark I was seeing everything. I'm beginning to get sinus pain now as well so I need to get on top of that before next week. I feel a bit achy."

So, Rose managed to shoot 66 on an immensely tough track while suffering from hay fever, bad sinuses and while operating in half-light behind his sunglasses. This is some talent we're talking about.

They are, of course, just two among many who could win. If many in Aberdeen thought the Swede, Kristoffer Broberg, would have faded from contention by now then Broberg has disabused the doubters. He is just one shot behind in third with a battery of others within striking distance should the top two falter, Stirling's Craig Lee among them.

Lee shot one of the rounds of the day, a gorgeously controlled 66. He's on six under. He might have much work to do but he's put himself in the hunt after missing three cuts in his last four tournaments.

This was a return to the form we saw from him in Abu Dhabi in January and in Switzerland in June, a reduction of the "rubbish" golf that has damaged his momentum too often on tour.

Scottish Open third round leaderboard
-10J Rose (Eng), M Warren (Sco)
-9K Broberg (Swe)
-7T Hatton (Eng)
-6C Lee (Scot), R Gonzalez (Arg)
Selected others-5 P Larrazabal (Spa), S Lowry (Ire), -3 R McIlroy (NI), -2 S Gallacher, S Jamieson, R Knox (Sco), P Mickelson (US), -1 P Casey, L Donald (Eng), D Clarke (NI)

The marquee names are just too far back, you fancy. The madly contrasting fortunes of Rory McIlroy continued. Having shot 14 shots more in his second round than he did in his first the Northern Irishman proceeded to take 10 fewer in his third round than he did in his second - a 68 to follow on from his 78 on Friday.

McIlroy spoke of how the varying wind almost made three different golf courses out of Royal Aberdeen on three different days. If that was the case then you could also argue that we've seen three different McIlroys. The genius of Thursday, the destructiveness of Friday and the steady approach of Saturday, without the fireworks or the flames.

"It's just getting rid of these stretches of holes or these bad second rounds," said McIlroy. It's becoming a bit of a mantra now.

"If I can get rid of that then there's no reason why I can't go next week and contend," he added. "I feel much more prepared going into it because hitting these shots into the wind on the range and hitting them under the gun are two completely different things. Being able to do that over the past three days can only help going into Hoylake."

McIlroy is three-under, which is one better than Phil Mickelson, whose chances of defending his title would be an altogether more realistic prospect had he not bogeyed the 18th hole on three successive days. On a challenging back nine, 18 has proved to be Mickelson's nemesis.

The reigning Open champion said he'd have to go monstrously low in the final round in order to give himself a chance of defending his title. He reckoned a 63 or a 64 might be required to reel in the leaders. "I think it's out there," he said. "I'll be off early enough to maybe make some noise."

As much as the galleries have followed Mickelson all week - at times the American has looked like he's the golfing version of the Pied Piper - the home crowd will be willing Warren on in the final round.

He is without a win since 2007 and has won just over 195,000 euros this year. By contrast, Rose won at the end of June, a victory that brought him more than $1m. Warren still has the memory of blowing a three-shot lead with four holes to play in this championship two years ago while Rose has shown that he can close things out against the very best and under the most intense pressure.

"It's an exciting position to be in," said Warren. "It doesn't get much better than this playing with a major champion in front of my home fans.

"It's potentially the biggest round of my life. Patience is something I've learned since Castle Stuart. I think that lesson has stood me in good stead this week. It's a marathon not a sprint."

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