Noren grabs lead at Ballantine's Championship

Alexander Noren carded a 3-under 69 on Saturday to grab a 1-stroke lead at the Ballantine's Championship.

Noren finished 54 holes at Blackstone Golf Course at 9-under-par 207.

"I'm just trying to play well tomorrow, and it's going to be a really fun day," said Noren. "I haven't been in the lead in a long time and I've had some good finishes, but it will be a lot of fun."

Pablo Larrazabal (68) and Peter Whiteford (69) shared second place at 8-under, while Brett Rumford (69) and 2010 champion Marcus Fraser (69) occupied fourth at minus-7.

Romain Wattel (71) and Jose Manuel Lara (72) sat in sixth place at 6-under.

Noren, who is coming off a tie for sixth place at the Malaysian Open, recorded seven pars and a birdie over his first eight holes until stumbling to his second bogey in three rounds at the par-4 ninth to remain at 6-under for the tournament.

After parring the next to holes, he recorded birdies at the 12th and 14th to join clubhouse leaders Larrazabal and Whiteford at 8-under.

Noren remained there until he closed out his round with a birdie at the 18th to take the outright lead.

"It was a nice way to finish, and it was a long, tough day, a lot of wind," Noren said. "My short game I think held it together and 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."

Larrazabal took the course with one of the earlier groups and opened his round with three straight pars before rolling in a pair of birdies at the fourth and sixth.

He gave one of those strokes back with a bogey at the seventh, but quickly recovered with a birdie at the eighth to hit the turn at 6-under for the tournament.

The Spaniard then poured in back-to-back birdies at the 11th and 12th to move to 8-under.

After a bogey at the 13th dropped him back to minus-7, he followed four straight pars with a birdie at the last to own the clubhouse lead.

"I hit the ball beautifully today," said Larrazabal. "It will be good to be in the final group again, it's been a long time."

Whiteford, meanwhile, traded birdies at the first and fourth with bogeys at the second and seventh to remain at even-par through his front nine.

But he would not drop another shot during his round and poured in three birdies over his inward nine -- at the 11th, 12th and 18th -- to join Larrazabal atop the leaderboard before Noren claimed the top spot.

NOTES: The second round was completed prior to the start of the third round following the tournament's second straight suspension of play on Friday ... Noren is seeking his fourth career win on the European Tour ... Larrazabal is trying for his third career win, while Whiteford is seeking his first.