Ilonen with Finnish professional golfer Linda Henriksson after the first round of the Finnair Masters at Helsinki Golf Club.
Finland’s Mikko Ilonen, a two-time winner on the European Tour, was at Helsinki Golf Club on Thursday and Friday to watch his fellow Finnish Tour players compete at the 2011 Finnair Masters. In this interview, he reveals how he was impressed with the standard and especially the speed of play, which in his opinion, is faster than that in men’s professional golf.
Mikko: is this your first time at a ladies’ tournament?
No. This is my second time at this tournament. I have been to one LPGA event years ago in Florida. I have been here before a couple of years ago with a few friends. I had a look around one round, obviously following the Finns. Today, I drove around in a buggy and followed them for a few holes.
What did you think?
I think Minni is a little off, looking from the distance. She had started playing better now. Better scores and she has been missing a lot of cuts. I think Kaisa can start playing better. She’s had a lot of good season last year. She’s won a lot of tournaments and I saw some good shots on her back nine. She is looking good but not scoring at all. I am not sure if she is feeling comfortable in this home tournament. A saw a couple of shots from Jenni and it can go either way, it can be good or bad. There are a coulpe of younger girls, Linda had a good round yesterday. I think the local people should put all their support behind her and some other people as well, not only Minni, because Minni is the big name and there is a lot of fuss around her. It’s putting a lot of pressure on her as well, which is natural. It would be good for the tournament if Linda can keep it going and shoot a couple under as well and be there tomorrow.
What do you think about the standard of golf?
It’s good. I’ve played with the girls before in practise rounds and stuff. It’s not that much difference. It’s only a few shots. When there are a couple of trees up ahead, they have to go around it, like this hole, normally the 18th. There were a couple of girls hitting pretty far off the tee and they have to lay up, which looks crazy to me. I’m thinking, what would I do there? But it is what it is. They are so straight, hit a lot of fairways and they putt good. The short game can be, it is a little stiff. There are not many natural short game skills around. It’s a bit man-made, that’s what I see. The best players that are there are as good as the guys, I am sure.
What do you think about the speed of play?
It’s quick. Every time I saw a player’s turn to come, they were ready to go right away: that’s good.
Do you think they are quicker than the men?
Yeah, definitely. There are too many guys wandering around, fiddling with this and that. I said that five minutes ago, I said: one thing that struck me today is that the speed of play is very good. That’s this morning so I don’t know about this afternoon.
About your injured leg, are you out until January?
I’ll be out for two months but considering the rules of the tour I think I’m better off being away for the whole season and getting a whole season next year, rather than getting 24 events combined this year and next year. I think I’m better off having some off time and getting fully fit for next year.
What’s the description of what you have?
Basically they removed a piece of bone from my ankle and they shaped it all over again. It will make it better anyway. I can practise full time in September.