Westwood still ahead by 3 shots in Sweden
Stockholm, Sweden (Sports Network) - Lee Westwood shot a four-under 68 on Friday to retain the lead through three rounds of the Nordea Masters, the final European Tour tuneup before the U.S. Open.
Westwood, the No. 3 player in the world, carried a three-stroke lead into the round and kept it. He sits at 16-under par 200 and is in good position to claim this title for the third time, having already done so in 1996 and 2000.
The Englishman did face pressure Friday from countryman Ross Fisher, who shot a seven-under 65 on the Stadium Course at Bro Hof Slott Golf Club. He holds second at minus-13.
Sweden's Peter Hanson (69) is alone in third at 12-under, while Richard Bland (68) is fourth at minus-11.
This event runs Wednesday through Saturday to give players an extra day to travel to San Francisco for the season's second major, and Westwood has a very good chance to head to the Olympic Club as a winner.
While he flew up the leaderboard Thursday thanks to eight birdies, Westwood used one key run Friday to stay in first.
He had two birdies and a bogey in his opening four holes, and sat at 13-under as he headed around the turn. By that time, Fisher was nearing the end of his stellar round, forcing Westwood to make birdies if he wanted to maintain a comfortable margin.
The 39-year-old did just that, draining three in a row from the 11th to jump back ahead. He parred out to end his round.
"I played well," said Westwood. "I hit a lot of good shots and it was solid stuff. I didn't get into too much trouble. I had a bit of a flyer on the second and that was the only bogey I made all day."
Fisher's score was tied for lowest of the day. He opened the round with back- to-back birdies, then made another at the ninth to reach nine-under.
But he soared up the leaderboard thanks to a five-hole stretch starting at 12, where he made the first of three consecutive birdies. Fisher reached 13-under with a birdie at 16, but could only watch as Westwood extended his lead once more.
"I've played really nicely, I'm gradually getting better," said Fisher. "Hopefully I can continue the trend tomorrow."
There was only so much ground Fisher could make up in a tournament that's proving to be very selective. Consistently good play and at least one very low round are necessary to contend for the title.
So while Hanson has recorded three rounds below 70, he hasn't gone lower than 67 and has had his last two rounds marred by a double-bogey.
That need for consistently good golf has also put defending champion Alexander Noren in a difficult position. While he carded a second consecutive 66 on Friday, the Swede opened his title defense with a 74. He shares fifth place with fellow Swede Michael Jonzon (70) at 10-under 206.
NOTES: Fisher tied for the lowest score of the round with Marcus Fraser, who is tied for seventh at minus-nine with eight other players...Fisher has not recorded a bogey all week.
06/08 13:16:08 ET