Rickie Fowler has geared up his game for a crack at British Open glory as he moved into contention after three rounds at the Scottish Open.
The 26-year-old American, who last year became just the third player ever to place in the top five in the four majors in the same calendar year, carded a fine 66 in windy conditions at Gullane, a score of miles down Scotland’s east coast from St Andrews where the Open starts next Thursday.
That left him at 10 under for the tournament on Saturday and just two shots off the lead held by unheralded Englishman Daniel Brooks, who had a 69.
Veteran Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin, who had the day’s best score of 64 was alone in second, while level with Fowler were England’s Tommy Fleetwood (67) and Dutchman Joost Luiten.
A further stroke back at nine under were top Scot Russell Knox (66), England’s Eddie Pepperell (65), and American Matt Kuchar (67). Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez (68) and Ryan Palmer of the United States (70) were tied at eight under.
Fowler, who won the Players Championship this year, but missed the cut at last month’s US Open, said that he felt his game was coming together nicely.
“One of the goals coming in was to get ready for next week, but to put myself in contention, so the juices are ready for next week as well,” he said.
“We are right there, exactly where we want to be. So go out tomorrow, get off to a good, solid start, stick to the game plan and keep playing well and see if we can bring it home.”
Brooks, ranked 528th in the world, led by three strokes at the start of the day but had a horrendous start with a wayward drive resulting in a double-bogey six that cost him the lead.
But he recovered nicely with birdies at 5, 8 and 9 and regained the lead with a birdie at the 16th.
Jacquelin, who won the last of his four European Tour titles at the 2013 Spanish Open, has failed to record a top 20 finish this year, but he showed some form last week on home turf at the French Open.
“I was struggling on Friday (at the French Open) and I fought back to play the weekend and played well,” the 41-year-old said after signing for a day’s best of 64.
“It brings me the confidence back that we see this week, hitting the ball solid and having a bit more fun on the course. That’s the key.”
Top Scot Knox, the US-based player who has received a late call-up to replace injured Rory McIlroy in the British Open, promised he would go all out for glory on Sunday.
“Yeah, just going to freewheel it. I’ve got nothing to lose, everything to gain. So look forward to just letting it rip tomorrow.”
The last home winner of the Scottish Open was Colin Montgomerie at Loch Lomond in 1999.
Defending champion Justin Rose repaired an opening bogey with two birdies going down the front nine.
But he came to grief with three bogeys coming home and his 72 left him six shots off the pace and needing a big effort on Sunday to retain his crown.
Phil Mickelson could only manage par to stand at three under, leaving him with almost no hope of repeating his 2013 triumph at Castle Stuart.
It proved to be an even tougher day for fellow American Jimmy Walker. The world number 12 had four double bogeys to reach the turn in eight-over 43 before parring his way home for a 78 that left him holding up the field.