SAN DIEGO -- Alex Noren of Sweden has all the credentials to be on the fringe of the elite in golf. He is a nine-time winner on the European Tour, including the flagship BMW PGA Championship, and he cracked the top 10 in the world when he won four times in 2016.
Now he has a chance to make his mark in America.
Noren surged on the closing stretch as so many challengers crumbled Saturday in the Farmers Insurance Open. He bounced back from a double-bogey with three birdies over the final six holes for a 3-under 69 and a 1-shot lead going into the final round at Torrey Pines.
"To win would be very, very big for my confidence, I think," Noren said. "And playing around these courses ... we're going to have the U.S. Open here in a few years, so it would be massive."
Even as Noren took his first 54-hole lead in his first PGA Tour event as a member, it was easy to overlook the 35-year-old Swede.
Beyond golf's top attraction was the long list of players chasing Noren. Two dozen players were separated by five shots going into the final round. That started with Ryan Palmer, who lost momentum from his 45-foot eagle by making two late bogeys and a lazy swing with a wedge that kept him from a good chance at birdie on the 18th.
It still includes Jon Rahm, who hit into the water front the green on the par-5 closing hole and took double-bogey for a 75. He was still just four shots back -- Rahm was three behind when he won last year -- and still in range of a victory that would give the 23-year-old Spaniard the No. 1 ranking.
Noren, who played college golf at Oklahoma State, ran in a long eagle at the par-5 sixth and closed out his round by drilling his second shot over the pond and to the back fringe on the 18th for a two-putt birdie. He was at 11-under 205.
Not being as well-known in these parts was the least of his concerns.
"All I'm trying to do is play some good golf, and my goal is to win a tournament," Noren said. "I don't care too much if they know me or not. It's quite nice if they don't know me. But they're very nice to me."
Palmer began the third round with a 1-shot lead and had two bad stretches. He made consecutive bogeys late on the front nine, and after stretching his lead to two shots with his eagle, he made two bogeys over the next three holes.
Even so, he'll be in the final group Sunday going for his first victory in eight years. He is in a good place, on the leaderboard and at home, with his wife getting clean scans in her battle with breast cancer and Palmer taking off the fall to get bone spurs removed from his shoulder.
"Wasn't the best year last year, and taking the fall off, but my game is in good shape," Palmer said. "It's ready. If we hit the ball a little bit better, a little more consistent, we're going to have a chance."
J.B. Holmes had a 65 to reach 9-under 207 and joins Palmer and Noren in the last group. Michael Kim also was two shots behind and has some course knowledge from going to Torrey Pines High School and playing the South more times than he can remember.
Tiger Woods was at his scrambling best in the third round, managing a 70. He is eight shots behind.
Phil Mickelson was three shots out of the lead -- until he shot 41 on the back nine. He had a 4-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have put him in the same group as Woods on Sunday. He missed.