Farmers Insurance Open: Alex Noren takes lead after thrilling Round 3 at Torrey Pines

Alex Noren leads after three rounds at the Farmers Insurance Open, but with 15 golfers within four strokes of the lead and 23 within five, Sunday should be a shootout at Torrey Pines. Noren assumed control at 11 under after firing a 3-under 69, which was his third straight round under par at this event. He's trailed by Ryan Palmer (10 under) and an intriguing group that includes J.B. Holmes (9 under), Beau Hossler (8 under), Justin Rose (8 under), Jason Day (8 under) and Jon Rahm (8 under).

Those are obviously some monstrous names, but the biggest name, Tiger Woods, is a little farther back at 3 under. He escaped his way around the course on Saturday to somehow shoot 70, and he'll have a nice shot at a backdoor top 10 on Sunday.

We covered Woods here, but I had five other takeaways from Round 3 on Saturday in California.

1. Ryan Palmer is easy to root for: Palmer carded a 1-over 73 on Saturday. That should actually probably be encouraging to anybody rooting for him because with the way he's playing, I don't see over-par rounds happening two days in a row. Palmer's wife, Jennifer, was recently treated for breast cancer, and he has clearly been affected by that on a personal and professional level. Palmer was also on a major medical extension, which he completed in the last two events. Now that he's regained his PGA Tour card, he seems to be playing more freely than in the last couple of years. No surprises if he gets his first win since 2010 on Sunday. 

2. Jon Rahm's big opportunity: A win on Sunday would mean two straight PGA Tour wins overall, five worldwide wins in the last 53 weeks, defending his Farmers Insurance Open title and moving to No. 1 in the world. So ... no pressure or anything. His double-bogey finish from the middle of the fairway on Saturday left a lot to be desired, but he shot a 65 on Sunday last year for the win. The same this year would likely get it done again.

3. Alex Noren might be legit: Incredibly, his 69 on Saturday included a double bogey. He had three other birdies and an eagle, too. There has been a lot of chatter about Noren racking up European Tour points and not being able to hang on the PGA Tour. Winning this event wouldn't necessarily prove anything different, but it would be a step in the right direction for the late-blooming Swede. With the quality of players chasing him down on Sunday, a victory would be well-earned. Noren would also be another bullet in Europe's chamber come the Ryder Cup. 

4. Felt big time: I don't know if it was Tiger Woods playing a weekend for the first time in nearly 1,000 days or the fact that CBS had the broadcast, but Saturday's third round felt important. Not "third round of a major championship" important, but it certainly felt bigger than the last few weeks have. This all goes back to my theory that certain tournament wins should be weighted more heavily than others (we don't have time to delve into that), and it sets up for what should be a monstrous Sunday afternoon at Torrey Pines.

5. The Mickelson fade: Be afraid, fans of The Thumb. He faded on the back nine with a 41 on Saturday, and this has been his issue over the past few years. It's hard, at 47, to maintain an elite level of energy and concentration for 72 holes. That's just a reality. Phil Mickelson knows it, and everyone else sees it. On Friday, as Paulie of the Fried Egg pointed out, Mickelson gained over 5 strokes on the field in Round 2. On Saturday? That dropped to -2.1. He had a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to get to 3 under and possibly be in a group with Big Cat on Sunday. Alas, he missed it.

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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