Saturday, 21 April 2018
Mikko Ilonen  (Getty Images)
Mikko Ilonen (Getty Images)

Mikko Ilonen fired the lowest round of the week to put himself right in contention for a sixth European Tour title on day three of the Trophée Hassan II.

The narrow, tree-lined layout at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam has always been a tough test but with 18 redesigned greens, it is proving even more of a challenge in 2018.

That was no problem for Ilonen, however, who - after two rounds of 72 - recovered from an opening bogey with seven birdies to post a 66 and sit one off the lead at six under par.

The 38 year old has not won since claiming two victories in 2014 but he has three top tens at this event including a third here in 2010, and was feeling confident on a course he enjoys.

"I like the layout," he said. "Everybody loves the layout. Obviously we have new greens this year and it's made the course a bit trickier.

"I wasn't expecting to be here, as you see. I haven't shaved this morning, or last week, so I wasn't prepared to be in front of the cameras.

"I was expecting a solid round again. I was quite happy with the two 72s to start with and things just started to roll my way today. I managed to score on the easier holes.

"I'm close enough."

South Africans Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Erik van Rooyen, and Frenchman Alexander Levy were also at six under on a congested leaderboard in Rabat.

Qualifying School graduate Bezuidenhout recovered from two early bogeys to post a 68 and was delighted to be competing at the business end after finishing second at the 2016 BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni.

"Overall it went pretty good but I got off to a slow start this morning with two bogeys on my first three holes," he said. "Then I made a nice putt on number four to get things going and from there I pretty much just played solid golf.

"I had a couple of chances the previous years. Obviously this is my first year fully on the European Tour so I'm looking forward to it. I'm just going to play fairway, green golf and see what happens at the end of the day tomorrow."

We practise to be in this position - Alexander Levy

Levy is no stranger to being in contention on a Sunday with four European Tour crowns to his name and he was hoping to get some winning momentum before he defends his Volvo China Open title next week.

"We practise to be in this position," he said after shooting a 69. "I think today it was good because I kept my mind in a good way. So that will be my goal tomorrow, to keep the mind in a good way and just enjoy it and play shot by shot and try to do the best I can."

Challenge Tour graduate Van Rooyen needed a birdie on the last to sign for a battling 71 and he is expecting another tough challenge on Sunday afternoon.

"It's really tough out there," he said. "Especially just mentally, staying in it.

"Some of the pins were crazy and it's just that kind of golf course, you've got to keep it in play, but I'm really happy with that birdie on the last. Some good momentum going into tomorrow.

"I've already played really well today, very solid. It's just the kind of course where you've got to just hang around."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1LEVY, AlexanderFRA18-8
2QUIROS, AlvaroESP18-7
T3PAVAN, AndreaITA18-6
T3BJÖRK, AlexanderSWE18-6
T3ILONEN, MikkoFIN18-6

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