Sweden's Alex Noren closed in on a first US PGA Tour title with a bogey-free four-under par 67 on Saturday for a one-stroke lead over Camilo Villegas in the Bermuda Championship in Southampton.
Noren, who won the most recent of his 10 DP World Tour titles at the French Open in 2018, was delighted to emerge from a testing round still atop the leaderboard, even though his lead was reduced by one shot.
"This is what you dream of, having a chance to win and being up in the final group on a Saturday, Sunday," said Noren, who got up and down for his fourth birdie of the day at 17 and saved par at the last to stand on 19-under par 194.
"I really enjoyed it today," he said. "I came off maybe a little colder start, but I played good enough to kind of get that four-under in the end. I’m very happy, happy with that and happy to be in the lead still."
Colombian veteran Villegas surged into contention with a six-under par 65 that featured seven birdies and a bogey.
He pressured Noren with four birdies in a row from the ninth through the 12th and briefly tied the lead with a two-putt birdie at the 17th.
"Played nicely," said Villegas, who has been knocking on the door in recent weeks in search of a fifth US PGA Tour title -- and a first since 2014.
"I was very patient because I did make a bogey on four and then just kind of missed on five, didn't make a birdie on six.
"Good birdie on seven and then got going there nine, 10, 11, 12 and the finishing stretch is tougher," Villegas said. Hit good shots, especially on that 15 and 16th hole. Got away with a drive on 17, made a good four there. I thought actually I made that eagle putt.
"But overall, three days -- one more."
Germany's Matti Schmid and American Ryan Moore were tied for third on 196.
Moore had five birdies and a bogey in his 67 while Schmid had an eagle, six birdies and two bogeys in his 65.
Schmid jumped up the leaderboard with five straight birdies from the fifth through the ninth.
After bogeys at 13 and 16 he eagled 17 and birdied 18 to reach 196.
The event is the sixth of seven in the FedEx Cup Fall series whose points standings will finalize eligibility for the 2024 PGA Tour season.
Schmid was among those seeking a strong showing to secure his card for next year.
"Need to keep doing my thing and need one more good finish," he said.
With his closest pursuers all seeking to solidify their 2024 positions, Noren said he would need to keep making birdies on Sunday.
"Tomorrow is going to be a lot of guys chasing, so there’s going to be some low scores," he said.