SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda (AP) — Alex Noren got up-and-down on his last two holes Saturday, one for a birdie to regain the lead and another for par to complete a 4-under 67 and keep a one-shot lead in the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
Noren will be going for his first PGA Tour victory and his first worldwide win since the French Open in 2018, the year the Swede played in the Ryder Cup.
“This is what you dream of, having a chance to win and being up in the final group on a Saturday, Sunday. I really enjoyed it today,” Noren said. “I came off maybe a little colder start, but I played good enough to kind of get that 4 under in the end. I’m very happy, happy with that and happy to be in the lead still.”
For most of the breezy day at Port Royal, Noren was trying to keep a nose in front of Camilo Villegas and Ryan Moore.
Villegas hammered a long iron to about 12 feet to set up a two-putt birdie on the par-5 17th and momentarily tied with Noren. Villegas finished with a par for a 65 and will be in the final group for the second straight week.
Moore came up short of the green at the 17th and watched it roll down a steep slope into the rough, taking away a sure birdie opportunity. He shot 67 and was two strokes behind along with Matti Schmid of Germany, who had five straight birdies on the front nine and closed out his round with an eagle and a birdie for a 65.
Noren hit a nifty pitch from the collar of rough behind the 17th green to 2 feet for birdie. More impressive was his par on the 18th. His approach came up short and rolled down a steep slope back to the fairway. He hit a pitch that checked up 3 feet short of the hole for par.
Noren was at 19-under 194 and has played his last 40 holes without a bogey.
For a week like this, when the wind is manageable and Port Royal is the shortest course on the PGA Tour, plenty of birdies are required to keep pace. Noren had three birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn and threw in a few good par putts.
“Tomorrow is going to be a lot of guys chasing, so there's going to be some low scores,” Noren said.
The three closest pursuers came into the Bermuda Championship trying to secure full PGA Tour cards for next year.
Villegas was at No. 223 until a runner-up finish in Mexico last week that got him inside the top 150, and now he is in range of moving into the top 125. The PGA Tour season ends next week.
“Three days, one more, got to keep doing the same thing and we’ll see what happens,” he said.
Moore was at No. 140 and Schmid was at No. 148.
“It's huge for me in my position,” Schmid said. “I think I'm 148 on the FedEx list right now. Need to keep doing my thing and need one more good finish.”
More than keeping a full card, they can think about winning.
Stewart Cink, who turned 50 this year and has dabbled on the PGA Tour Champions, had a 66 and was three shots behind. Adam Scott had a 65 and was in the group another shot back. Scott rolled in a 40-foot putt on the par-3 16th, birdied the 17th and then made a 25-foot putt at the end to finish his string of birdies.
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