Mikko Ilonen (Getty Images)
Mikko Ilonen overcame a nervous start to maintain his three shot lead over the opening holes of the Volvo China Open third round at a windy Binhai Lake Golf Club.
The Finn was three clear overnight, but that lead shrank to one when he pulled a three foot par putt at the opening hole and Kiradech Aphibarnrat two-putted the long second for birdie.
However, 33 year old Ilonen – who recorded both of his European Tour victories back in 2007 – responded with a birdie of his own at the par five second, and Aphibarnrat dropped a shot at the short third.
That left matters as they were at the top of the leaderboard, with Ilonen 12 under and Aphibarnrat on nine under alongside last week’s Ballantine’s Championship winner Brett Rumford, who opened with four consecutive pars.
England’s Paul Casey and Spain’s Pablo Larrazábal were making the most notable charge, as they moved to eight under par.
Larrazábal briefly reached nine under with a five footer at the third, but dropped a shot at the fifth, while former World Number Three Casey had three birdies in his first eight holes.