Finland’s Mikko Ilonen remained on course for a wire-to-wire victory midway through the final round of the Irish Open today.
Ilonen took a one-shot lead over England’s Danny Willett into the last day at Fota Island and had doubled it by the turn thanks to birdies on the second and fourth.
Willett, who had a hole-in-one in his course record 63 on yesterday, had got off to a poor start with a bogey on the third after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker, but bounced back immediately with a birdie on the next.
And another birdie on the ninth took the former English amateur champion into the back nine in outright second, one ahead of home favourite Graeme McDowell, France’s Gregory Bourdy and England’s Matthew Baldwin.
Looking to deliver a home winner for the massive crowds, McDowell had carded one birdie and nine pars in his first 10 holes, frustratingly three-putting for par on the fourth after finding the green in two.
England’s Chris Wood had set the clubhouse target on 10 under par after a closing 66.
McDowell looked increasingly frustrated as a string of birdie chances went begging, leaving the former US Open champion three off the pace.
Ilonen threatened to open the door when he charged a birdie putt eight feet past the hole on the 12th and left himself with 15 feet for par on the next, but holed confidently each time to remain two ahead of playing partner Willett.
14 under - Mikko Ilonen (Fin) (after 65 holes)
12 under – Daniel Willett (65)
11 under – Graeme McDowell (66)
Kristoffer Broberg (Swe) (67)
Matthew Baldwin (67)
10 under – Magnus A Carlsson (Swe) (68)
Richard Finch (71)
Edoardo Molinari (Ita) (69)
9 under – Chris Wood (72)
Ross Fisher (72)
Fabrizio Zanotti (Par) (67)
Gregory Bourdy (Fra) (70)
Gary Stal (Fra) (70)
Michael Hoey (72)
8 under – Adam Gee (72)
Gareth Maybin (70)
Matthew Nixon (72)
Marcel Siem (Ger) (72)
Padraig Harrington (72)
Simon Khan (70)