A very Scottish Saturday but Scandinavians lead heading into the AIG Women’s Open final round

Carnoustie was soaked through by the end of the third round of the final major championship of the year yet, like the locals, Anna Nordqvist and Nanna Koertz Madsen didn’t notice.

Saturday at the AIG Women's Open was a day when the Scottish people proved their indomitably resolute nature in the face of grey skies, damp air and driving rain.

As the third round neared its conclusion at Carnoustie, a small boy in an anorak was captured by the TV cameras cheerily scooping ice cream into his mouth, oblivious to the water sluicing down around him.

And earlier in the afternoon 21-year-old amateur Louise Duncan not only eschewed the waterproofs that just about every other competitor was wearing, but actually ventured out in shorts.

It was magnificently sturdy stuff and she took the same approach to her golf, piecing together a 68 that leaves her in a tie for fourth heading into Sunday's final round.

Can she pull of a remarkable coup? She started the week with the aim of merely making the weekend and admitted on Thursday that she had been "shaking like a leaf" when she hit her opening tee shot.

Now she will head to her bed tonight with a genuine opportunity of becoming the first amateur winner of a Major Championship since Catherine LaCoste won the 1967 US Women's Open.

The local, who will surely draw the crowds to Carnoustie on Sunday, is part of a five-way tie for fourth on 7-under 209, one shot behind Lizette Salas and two behind the leaders Sweden's Anna Nordqvist and Denmark's Nanna Koertz Madsen.

The two Scandinavians emerged from what was a packed leaderboard on the front nine, when there were as many as six players tied at the top.

Nordqvist, who was out early, had to deal only with drizzle as she carded an error-free 65. In contrast, Koertz Madsen had to deal with driving rain as she completed a 68.

There was disappointment for the pre-round co-leader, and winner of this championship three years ago, Georgia Hall.

The Englishwoman failed to save par from off the green at the first and it set the tone for a frustrating day. She eventually carded a 73 and sits three strokes back of top spot.

Let's take a look at the leading contenders, starting with a trend that makes for great reading both for punters and the two leaders.

The rock solid trend: third round pace setters

14 of the 20 winners of this tournament since it became a Major Championship were tied second or better after 54 holes.

That trend is even stronger in recent times: it is 14 of the last 16 winners.

That's great news for Nordqvist and Madsen.

Moreover, winners of the championship when it is held on linksland tend to have proven themselves before hand with at least a top 15 finish. More good news for Nordqvist, who was tied seventh here at Carnoustie in 2011 and has also repeated that finish at Turnberry and Kingsbarns.

Madsen was T21st at Turnberry, but has missed cuts in her other two links starts. On the other hand, she was tied fifth in last year's Scottish Open at The Renaissance Club.

Two-time Major winner Nordqvist also has local connections having married Scot Kevin McAlpine. She has even played Carnoustie on Boxing Day when visiting his parents at Christmas.

The two leaders are both rated 9/2 shots with Paddy Power and the Swede is the call - she's got that strong trend, links savvy, major winning form and local excitement on-side.

(Romantic might be tempted by the 33/1 on offer for Duncan to lift the trophy.)

The nearly woman

Can Lizette Salas finally add the Major win to her CV that her past performances deserve?

She finished 17-under when second in the 2019 edition of this event and 16-under when runner-up in this year's KPMG PGA Championship.

Those two efforts are the best scores by a non-winner in the two events.

That effort in this tournament was on the parkland Woburn, but she does have three top 20s on the linkslands including a best of tied sixth at the Old Course.

Another nearly woman

The 20-year-old American Yealimi Noh began her 2021 European vacation with a trip to the Evian Championship where she held the lead deep into the final round and spent the entire week in the top four.

She backed that up with top 20 finishes in the World Invitational and Scottish Open ahead of finding herself once again in the hunt at a Major.

She talked a lot after her second round about fatigue but showed little of that as she notched four birdies in a row on the front nine and then added another at the 14th to take the lead at 10-under.

But perhaps that much-discussed tiredness crept in late in the day as she dropped four shots at the final three holes.

Local links for Lexi

America's Lexi Thompson is another player who has gone close at this year's Majors.

In her case she had the US Open in the palm of her hand during the final round before letting it slip from her fingers in agonising fashion.

This week she has Carnoustie car salesman and plus-two handicapper Paul Drummond on her bag and she has credited him with giving her good reads and great lines through 36 holes.

Her final putt was on a perfect line, but fell inches short of a birdie, but she's still in the hunt, alongside Duncan, at 7-under. Can Drummond's expertise make the difference and land her a second Major title?

READ MORE: What they said: Thomas finds putting secret in Northern Trust opener

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