Inverness, Scotland – Francesco Molinari shot a 5-under 67 on Saturday to stay in front after three rounds of the Scottish Open.
The Italian finished 54 holes at Castle Stuart Golf Links at 17-under-par 199, and holds a one-stroke lead. Anders Hansen carded a 65 to move into second place by himself at minus-16.
Soren Kjeldsen and Marc Warren both shot 8-under 64 and share third at 15- under, while Phil Mickelson turned in another very good round of golf.
The American gained late entry into this event in preparation for next week's British Open, and was coming off a string of poor results. Prior to shooting a 64 on Friday, Mickelson hadn't shot below 70 since mid-May.
On Saturday, he fired a 65 and pulled himself into contention. Sitting three strokes off Molinari's lead at minus-14, Mickelson is tied with Martin Laird (64), Peter Whiteford (66) and Alexander Noren (70).
Noren had shared the lead with Molinari after the second round, but couldn't keep Molinari's pace on Saturday.
Scots Laird and Warren, along with Kjeldsen, were among the early players to soar up the leaderboard. Hansen then jumped in front with a bogey-free round.
He was playing five groups in front of the leaders, with world No. 1 and defending champion Luke Donald, and birdied three of his first five holes. That run put Hansen at minus-12, and he stayed at that score around the turn.
Back-to-back birdies from the 11th pushed Hansen further under par, and the Dane closed his round with two more birdies to take the clubhouse lead.
"I played steady today and did not make many mistakes and just kept the ball in play and gave myself some opportunities," said Hansen.
While there were still five groups following Hansen's, most of those players either didn't break par or go low enough to challenge for first place.
Noren, for instance, reached minus-16 by the time he made the turn, but a triple bogey at No. 12 -- where he carded a double bogey Friday -- sent him tumbling down the leaderboard.
The Swede regained two of those strokes with birdies at 16 and 17, but he bogeyed the last.
Molinari, on the other hand, was steady throughout his round. He drained four birdies in a five-hole stretch from the second to turn at minus-16, then made another at the 10th.
The Italian parred out, but had managed to do enough to maintain an advantage heading into Sunday. Molinari will be trying for his fourth European Tour title and second of the year, following his Open de Espana victory in May.
Through three rounds, Molinari has made 21 birdies and had only two mistakes -- a bogey and triple bogey, both of which he had Friday. He has hit 16 greens in regulation each round, as well as 36 of 42 fairways.
That consistently good play is a good sign for the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, as well as the Ryder Cup. He is in the thick of the qualifying hunt, currently sitting in eighth on the European points list and 10th on the world points list.
"My golf and my form are getting better and better," said Molinari. "Obviously it's a very good time to be playing this well, and I'll just see how it goes tomorrow."
Donald shot a 4-under 68 and is part of a large group tied for ninth at 13- under 203. He shares that place with Rafa Cabrera-Bello (65), Thomas Levet (66), Pablo Larrazabal (66), Alejandro Canizares (68), Peter Lawrie (68) and S.S.P. Chowrasia (69).
NOTES: Hansen has recorded just one bogey through 54 holes...Matteo Manassero had been among the leaders until shooting a 1-over 73 on Saturday. That dropped him 29 places into a tie for 32nd at minus-10.