Ilonen leads Nordea Masters by two shots over Noren after third round

Mikko Ilonen at the Nordea Masters
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Mikko Ilonen leads the Nordea Masters after back-to-back birdies at Nos. 13 and 14 and an eagle at No. 15 in the rain in Stockholm.
By news services

Series: European Tour

Published: Saturday, June 01, 2013 | 2:15 p.m.

STOCKHOLM -- Mikko Ilonen takes a two-shot lead over Sweden's Alexander Noren into the final round of the Nordea Masters as he seeks to end a six-year winless drought on the European Tour.

The 33-year-old Finn shot a 7-under 65 in wet conditions Saturday to move to an overall 18-under 198 on the Bro Hof Slott course.

The 114th-ranked Ilonen, whose last victory came at this event in 2007, had back-to-back birdies at Nos. 13 and 14. He then eagled the par-5 15th when his short wedge shot into the green spun back into the hole.

Noren posted an 8-under 64.

“I need to shoot another low score and I can do it, but we’ve got 18 holes to go and lots of other guys are still hunting me,” said Ilonen.

With last week’s BMW PGA Championship winner Matteo Manassero having a rare off-day, Ilonen turned in 33 to grab a one-shot lead, before pulling clear with a spectacular patch of scoring in the middle of the back nine.

He struck his approach to three feet at the 13th set up a birdie, converted another from five feet at the 14th, and then saw a sand wedge spin back in for eagle at the 15th.

“It was a bit of a funny yardage for me,” he said of the eagle. “It was raining and I just tried to squeeze it in there and got lucky with it a bit.”

Noren romped to victory by a whopping seven shots two years ago, and displayed that sort of form again as he holed putts of 80 feet and 40 feet at the fourth and 16th for two of seven birdies, as well as highlighting his long-game talents with a fairway wood to 10 feet to set up an eagle on the long ninth.

“I got lucky,” said the 30-year-old. “I hit a lot of good putts and I holed a lot of them – I don’t know where it came from, amazing putting.

“I’ve played here a lot; I’m from an hour away, it’s the best course in Sweden and it is a beautiful place.”

The 20-year-old Manassero looked to have overcome a sluggish start with three birdies on the back nine, but went from rough to water at the last and double bogeyed to dent his chances of back-to-back victories with a 71.

Blixt produced a bogey-free 66, with a chip-in at the third and approach to three feet at the last among the highlights.