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Mikko Ilonen (pictured by Getty Images) birdied the closing hole at Fota Island Resort to retain the outright lead going into the final round of the Irish Open, but Englishman Danny Willett and home favourite Graeme McDowell ensured it will be a captivating conclusion in Cork.

Ilonen battled to a two under par third round of 69 for a 12 under par total, but his two stroke overnight advantage was halved after Willett surged through the field, shaving a shot off Ilonen’s own course record of 64, which was set on Thursday.

Willett holed his eight iron tee shot for an ace on the 165 yard par three seventh hole, and posted six birdies, including three in a row over the closing holes, in a round of 63 to move into second place on 11 under par.

An impressive crowd of 28, 173 lined the fairways hoping that McDowell could give himself a chance of becoming the first home winner of the Irish Open since Shane Lowry in 2009.

While the 2010 US Open Champion struggled with his putter, carding back-to-back bogeys before the turn, he picked up three shots on the way in and is just two shots off the pace in third place following a round of 69.

Key player quotes

Mikko Ilonen: “I’ve been leading all the way this week and I’ve been handling the pressure of the lead pretty well so far, so I’m expecting not to do anything else tomorrow.

“It was a good finish today. The birdie on 18 in front of that crowd is a great feeling. The day overall was very much the same as yesterday. I played pretty much the same all the way.”

Danny Willett: “[On his hole in one]: “It was the perfect number with an eight-iron, I hit it a little bit to the left and it just started moving in at the end, I never expected it to slam dunk into the hole so that was a bit of a bonus.

“I also holed out with a wedge, so it was just one of those days when things go your way. I just hope I haven’t used up all my luck for tomorrow!”

Graeme McDowell: “Winning the Irish Open would be special on many levels. It would be a kick-starter for my season, and it would be a big boost in the World Rankings and Ryder Cup points. But most importantly, to win here in front of my home fans, with everything that’s gone on in Irish golf lately, with The Open Championship announcement and Rory and his Olympic announcement this week, I think it would be fun to do the biz tomorrow.”

Complete third round scores from the Irish Open at Fota Island Resort (par 71)

201 M Ilonen (Fin) 64 68 69,

202 D Willett (Eng) 73 66 63,

203 G McDowell (Nir) 68 66 69,

204 M Baldwin (Eng) 67 71 66, F Zanotti (Par) 70 69 65, R Wattel (Fra) 69 65 70, K Broberg (Swe) 69 69 66,

205 G Maybin (Nir) 71 65 69, E Molinari (Ita) 67 69 69, A Hansen (Den) 67 70 68, S Khan (Eng) 69 66 70, M Carlsson (Swe) 66 71 68,

206 G Stal (Fra) 70 67 69, G Bourdy (Fra) 68 71 67,

207 R Gonzalez (Arg) 69 70 68, O Fisher (Eng) 73 68 66, A Gee (Eng) 68 70 69, P Casey (Eng) 69 69 69, R Finch (Eng) 68 72 67, P Harrington (Irl) 69 67 71,

208 M Crespi (Ita) 68 67 73, P Larrazábal (Esp) 72 69 67, R Santos (Por) 71 71 66, C Wood (Eng) 69 69 70, G Havret (Fra) 70 68 70, R Rock (Eng) 68 66 74,

209 G Storm (Eng) 69 70 70, R Kakko (Fin) 71 66 72, R Bland (Eng) 73 68 68, M Hoey (Nir) 68 71 70, D Huizing (Ned) 67 71 71, M Nixon (Eng) 70 65 74, M Warren (Sco) 71 70 68,

210 E Goya (Arg) 70 70 70, J Singh (Ind) 68 73 69, S Manley (Wal) 70 68 72, J Kelly (Irl) 71 71 68, S Kim (Kor) 69 67 74, R Cabrera-Bello (Esp) 72 68 70, R Fisher (Eng) 68 72 70, L Hao-Tong (Chn) 69 72 69, S Webster (Eng) 70 70 70,

211 M Fitzpatrick (Eng) 72 69 70, A Cañizares (Esp) 72 68 71, S Walker (Eng) 72 68 71, M Siem (Ger) 66 74 71, P Lawrie (Irl) 69 72 70,

212 T Pieters (Bel) 72 70 70, A Pavan (Ita) 71 71 70, A Quiros (Esp) 70 70 72, D Horsey (Eng) 72 69 71, D Howell (Eng) 72 67 73, J Carlsson (Swe) 70 70 72, C Doak (Sco) 69 70 73, A McArthur (Sco) 71 67 74,

213 J Knutzon (USA) 73 69 71, A Wall (Eng) 71 71 71, J Roos (RSA) 68 73 72, D Clarke (Nir) 72 68 73,

214 S Dodd (Wal) 73 69 72, J Heath (Eng) 70 72 72, A Forsyth (Sco) 71 71 72, D Fichardt (RSA) 68 74 72, R Karlsson (Swe) 66 76 72,

215 J Olazábal (Esp) 69 73 73, M Lundberg (Swe) 70 71 74,

216 W Ormsby (Aus) 70 71 75, J Doherty (Sco) 71 71 74, J Walters (RSA) 68 74 74, A Saddier (Fra) 71 71 74, T Lewis (Eng) 68 72 76,

217 F Calmels (Fra) 73 69 75,

218 P Sjöland (Swe) 69 72 77,

219 M Miller (USA) 73 67 79, G Hurley (am) (Irl) 72 66 81,

Source: European Tour

Author

Graham J Gordon, The Editor and Owner, GolfblogspotUK

The GolfblogspotUK website is owned and run by former Walker Cup player and European Tour card holder, Graham J Gordon, from Scotland, the Home of Golf. The owner is a golf fanatic who had to retire early from competitive tour play due to a back injury that required surgery. Graham wishes to share his knowledge and own experiences of the game with the GolfblogspotUK community and to receive your feedback on all aspects of the sport. Graham has been playing the game for over 20 years and received a great deal of pleasure from the sport. He has met several friends and visited many different places around the world, thanks to playing the great game of golf. Time to put a little back into the game to help others.

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