Noren grabs the lead in Scotland

European Tour

Sweden's Alex Noren will take a slender one-shot lead into the weekend at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.

The 33-year-old from Stockholm started the day four shots off the clubhouse lead and didn't make any major inroads on his front nine, a solitary birdie at the 12th helping him to an outward 35.

But Noren would catch fire after the turn, picking up shots at the second, third, sixth, seventh and eighth to sign for a superb 66 – the joint lowest round of the day – and an eight under par total.

While there weren't many 66s on offer at Castle Stuart Golf Links on Friday, scoring was much easier than on day one, which saw only two players break 70.

New Zealand's Danny Lee shares second place with England's Eddie Pepperell on seven under.

Lee held the clubhouse lead for much of the day after his 66, and it was only when Noren made his late charge that the lead changed hands.

Pepperell shot a 67 and he and Lee lie one shot clear of four others – Matteo Manassero (67), Branden Grace (67), Richard Bland (68), and Jorge Campillo (66).

Lying on five under are Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell, who both carded rounds of 69.

Phil Mickelson, meanwhile, improved on his opening 76 by seven strokes to lie on one over par, safely above the cutline.

The day belonged to Noren, however, who said afterwards he enjoyed the course's mix of tough and birdieable holes.

“I like this place,” he said. “It's a really fun course to play. A few very tricky holes and then a few holes where you can go for the green in two on the par fives and you can reach I think two greens today on the par four in one, which is very fun for us. Some weeks, we play courses where it's tough all the way around, and here, it's kind of a really nice mix, so I like it.

“It wasn't easy but I managed to hit some good shots. It got better and better – I played steady on the front nine, and then my last nine holes, I really got it going. 

“It's always nice when you get it going and then another birdie maybe drops, and that's what happened today.”

Second-placed Lee, meanwhile, was meant to defend his title at this week's Greenbrier Classic before it was cancelled due to the devastating floods that severely affected the Greenbrier Resort and surrounding areas.

Lee decided to play in Scotland and donate money for every birdie (500 US dollars) and eagle (1,000 US dollars) he made to the flood-relief efforts in West Virginia.

“I made a lot of birdies which is good,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate what happened to the West Virginia area. I’m donating a little bit of money so I’m happy I had a lot of birdies and hopefully I can put some eagles in there too.”