Harrington and McDowell lurking in Inverness
 Pádraig Harrington tees off at the 12th. Picture: Getty Images

Pádraig Harrington tees off at the 12th. Picture: Getty Images

Major winners Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell are lurking three strokes behind Sweden's Alex Noren in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links

While Harrington wasn't happy that the tour eased off on the field with a benign set up, Noren took advantage of easier weather conditions, posting six birdies in a flawless 66 in Inverness to climb to eight under par, one shot clear of New Zealand’s Danny Lee and Englishman Eddie Pepperell, who posted respective rounds of 66 and 67. 

World No 10 Branden Grace is two behind with Harrington and McDowell, who share eighth place on five under after respective 69s.

  Alex Noren. Getty Images

Alex Noren. Getty Images

As Shane Lowry (77-73), Paul Dunne (78-70) and Paul McGinley (77-76) missed the cut and Michael Hoey scraped in on two over after a 72, Harrington shot a 69 but sounded like he'd have preferred a stiffer examination.

“They softened the golf course up a lot today, pushed the tee boxes forward," he said. "It was a slightly different challenge. Still the wind was kind of up and down when we were out there. But I certainly preferred yesterday. It was a big, tough challenge yesterday where it was all about making pars and getting the odd birdie to kind of get one in the bank."

He added: “I'm very happy, any time you're breaking 70 is good. Didn't play quite as well as yesterday, I was little bit more tentative today. 

“But I'm happy with my game and where it's at. I'm seeing good things in my game and now I'm seeing a few good scores with it, which it's a good time of the year for playing well.”

McDowell has had to do some back-tracking having inadvertently criticised the venue a few years ago.

But with his links genes coming to the fore, he's finding some form and confidence as he faces a big four week stretch for his Ryder Cup hopes and a second Scottish Open win would change his season.

"I like links golf," McDowell said. "I grew up playing it. I feel like I adapt maybe quicker than some other players do. Like I said yesterday, the weekend I spent in Troon after the missed the cut in France was big for me on a lot of levels.

"Like that third shot to the last from 99 yards, it was a 9-iron and a shot I was working on there at Troon at the weekend, stuff like that.

"It's very hard to tune into that type of golf, hitting a 9-iron from a hundred yards. You don't see that often. You don't play shots like that very often, and getting some practise is really very invaluable...

"Nice to be going in there tomorrow afternoon sort of in the last few groups I suppose. It's the kind of stuff I need right now, going into a big four weeks of golf here this week, and then to next week and the two weeks beyond. So plenty of golf to play and nice to, like you say, having juices flowing going into the weekend. Be looking forward to it."

Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, Castle Stuart Golf Links (Par 72)

136 A Noren  (Swe) 70 66, 

137 D Lee  (Nzl) 71 66, E Pepperell (Eng) 70 67, 

138 R Bland (Eng) 70 68, B Grace  (RSA) 71 67, M Manassero (Ita) 71 67, J Campillo (Esp) 72 66, 

139 G McDowell  (Nir) 70 69, P Harrington (Irl) 70 69, 

140 R Ramsay  (Sco) 72 68, A Sullivan (Eng) 70 70, T Hatton (Eng) 70 70, A Cañizares  (Esp) 74 66,

141 Y Yang (Kor) 70 71, C Paisley  (Eng) 73 68, F Aguilar (Chi) 69 72, W Ashun (Chn) 72 69, R Gouveia (Por) 72 69,

142 R Knox (Sco) 72 70, M Kaymer (Ger) 72 70, S Hend (Aus) 69 73, N Elvira  (Esp) 72 70, M Ilonen  (Fin) 71 71, A Levy (Fra) 71 71, M Warren (Sco) 73 69, J Walters (RSA) 72 70,

143 B Dredge (Wal) 71 72, M Lorenzo-Vera  (Fra) 74 69, M Carlsson  (Swe) 72 71, C Shinkwin (Eng) 74 69, B Hebert  (Fra) 75 68, N Fasth (Swe) 72 71, T Bjørn (Den) 73 70, T Pieters  (Bel) 73 70, L Donald  (Eng) 71 72,

144 G Havret  (Fra) 73 71, R Sterne  (RSA) 71 73, S Webster (Eng) 74 70, D Howell (Eng) 72 72, R Cabrera Bello (Esp) 71 73, N Colsaerts  (Bel) 74 70, N Bertasio (Ita) 72 72, R Jacquelin (Fra) 73 71, P Meesawat  (Tha) 74 70, F Zanotti (Par) 77 67, R Wattel  (Fra) 73 71, A Wall (Eng) 75 69, L Slattery (Eng) 74 70,

145 R Rock (Eng) 72 73, J Quesne  (Fra) 73 72, O Wilson (Eng) 75 70, G Wright  (Wal) 74 71, S Stricker (USA) 74 71, J Carlsson (Swe) 75 70, J Doherty  (Sco) 72 73, E Molinari  (Ita) 72 73, C Hanson (Eng) 75 70, L Bjerregaard  (Den) 76 69, M Ford (Eng) 74 71, P Mickelson (USA) 76 69, H Stenson (Swe) 76 69, P Larrazábal (Esp) 73 72, R Evans  (Eng) 73 72, P Reed (USA) 75 70,

146 S Kjeldsen (Den) 74 72, R Fisher (Eng) 76 70, M Hoey  (Nir) 74 72, T Fleetwood  (Eng) 74 72, M Kieffer (Ger) 75 71, S Gros (Fra) 75 71, A Dodt (Aus) 72 74, J Lagergren (Swe) 72 74, J McLeary  (Sco) 74 72, R Paratore (Ita) 72 74, J Hansen  (Den) 73 73, D Drysdale (Sco) 72 74.

CUT

147 J Singh (Ind) 72 75, S Jamieson  (Sco) 76 71, G Bourdy (Fra) 74 73, B Virto  (Esp) 80 67, M Fitzpatrick  (Eng) 73 74, S Khan (Eng) 73 74, C Lee (Sco) 71 76, G Storm  (Eng) 75 72, M Korhonen (Fin) 74 73, R Kakko  (Fin) 72 75, P Whiteford (Sco) 76 71, B Evans  (Eng) 75 72, H Porteous (RSA) 74 73, A Johnston (Eng) 76 71, K Aphibarnrat (Tha) 76 71,

148 T Jaidee (Tha) 77 71, L Haotong (Chn) 77 71, P Dunne (Irl) 78 70, T Linard (Fra) 76 72, M Jiménez (Esp) 78 70, D Im (USA) 74 74, G Boyd  (Eng) 77 71, R Dinwiddie  (Eng) 79 69, D Horsey (Eng) 77 71,

149 A Otaegui  (Esp) 75 74, R McEvoy  (Eng) 76 73, S Chawrasia (Ind) 78 71, M Southgate  (Eng) 73 76, O Fisher  (Eng) 75 74, C Montgomerie  (Sco) 78 71, L Jensen (Den) 76 73, D Brooks (Eng) 78 71,

150 J Lovemark (USA) 82 68, J Luiten (Ned) 76 74, S Lowry  (Irl) 77 73, S Lee (Kor) 74 76, S Manley (Wal) 75 75, M Madsen  (Den) 76 74, J Gunn (Sco) 77 73, J Edfors (Swe) 77 73,

151 J Fahrbring (Swe) 78 73, R McGowan  (Eng) 79 72, J Morrison  (Eng) 76 75, R Davies (Wal) 78 73, S Lyle (Sco) 78 73, M Baldwin (Eng) 80 71, J Wang (Kor) 78 73, A Venter (am) (RSA) 78 73,

152 D Lipsky (USA) 74 78, C Berardo (Fra) 79 73, T Olesen (Den) 78 74, K Nicol (Sco) 79 73, S Dyson  (Eng) 80 72, J Parry (Eng) 78 74, P Edberg (Swe) 80 72, B Åkesson (Swe) 77 75,

153 G Coetzee (RSA) 79 74, P McGinley (Irl) 77 76, G Stal  (Fra) 81 72,

154 P Lawrie (Sco) 81 73, S Kapur (Ind) 78 76, J Winther (Den) 81 73, A Forsyth (Sco) 83 71, R Green (Aus) 78 76, D Dixon (Eng) 79 75, D Lingmerth (Swe) 82 72, A McArthur  (Sco) 80 74, P Hanson (Swe) 79 75, J Holmes (USA) 80 74, J Scrivener (Aus) 80 74,

155 N Holman  (Aus) 78 77, J Donaldson (Wal) 80 75,

156 R Karlsson (Swe) 84 72,

160 B Rumford (Aus) 83 77,

169 J Jeong (Kor) 88 81, 

WD/RT D Fichardt (RSA) 80 WD, M Siem  (Ger) 80 WD, T Fisher Jnr (RSA) 80 RT, E De La Riva  (Esp) 81 WD, E España (Fra) RT