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THE IRISH OPEN


June 22, 2014


Mikko Ilonen


FOTA ISLAND, IRELAND

PAUL SYMES:テつ Many congratulations this week, your fourth European Tour win, and what a way to celebrate it.
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ Thank you very much.テつ It's been obviously a long week leading from start to finish, but I said it earlier, it was very much a Martin‑Kaymer inspired win, what he did last week.テつ I can only imagine what he was going through, he had a bigger lead going into Sunday.
I didn't have to do much today to be honest.テつ I was a little surprised.テつ I played good enough to score well today, so all I needed to do, 2‑putt from everywhere really.
PAUL SYMES:テつ This is your fourth European Tour win.テつ Fair to say it's your biggest in your career?
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ Of course.テつ There's no doubt about it.
PAUL SYMES:テつ Given the crowds out there, what an experience it must have been.
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ Yeah, I've experienced these crowds before, and especially two years ago in Portrush.テつ I played with Rory on the last day, and back then, I remember saying to Rory, thanks for playing in this tournament‑‑ because I wasn't into The Open that year, and I said, this is my Open right here.
Obviously it's a slightly different kind of golf course time around, but an Open and parkland course, this was it.テつ Nice.

Q.テつ You said on the TV that you had basically thinking about winning this tournament since mid day Thursday.テつ Can you expand on that and how difficult is that once you've shot such a good score so early on a Thursday?
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ Obviously when I played this golf course on Tuesday and Wednesday, somehow it looked easy, it felt easy.テつ I said, you're going to have some crazy scores in there.テつ And I had a low one on Thursday to start with, and it was something that I was expecting, and I could see from the faces of other players and you guys that you weren't expecting it.
And I heard some comments from other players; that they were not expecting a low‑scoring event, and I was very surprised.テつ Because from Tuesday, starting from Tuesday, it felt easy for me, and in the end, I'm disappointed with the score.テつ I had a number in my head all week, including today, that I tried to get to, and I missed it by a mile.

Q.テつ What's the number you had in mind?
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ 21.

Q.テつ Did it help or did it matter that you were not playing in front of Irish contenders, given the noise?
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ The only thing when you‑‑ playing behind Graeme yesterday and today, the only thing, when most of the crowd is following him and his group, whenever they finish in front of us, you know, we're ready to hit, but we have to wait because the crowd is still moving.
So it's a 50/50.テつ I really enjoyed playing with Danny.テつ We've played before.テつ I've played with Graeme before.テつ I wouldn't mind to play with him, going head‑to‑head with him today.テつ But it wasn't meant to be.

Q.テつ Could you take us through the 18th and the clubbing, please?
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ I hit a 3‑iron off the tee.テつ Actually I only noticed when we were walking up that I could have hit maybe 5‑iron off that tee to the fattest part of the fairway.テつ I didn't know if it hit something because it was further right than it was looking from the tee.テつ I thought it was just maybe just in the rough, maybe three, four yards off the fairway.テつ But then I had a shot at it.テつ It was‑‑ obviously anything could have happened from there but I felt quite comfortable trying to sort of‑‑ I hit another 3‑iron, tried to cut it a little bit, just keep it low under those branchs and whatever happens after that, I think it's playable if it doesn't hit the first tree.
So the ball got just wrapped around the tree there and I chipped it out and it was an easy‑‑ yeah, that was the only place for me to go.テつ I couldn't cut it enough from there to get back on the fairway.テつ I was always going to be in the left rough.テつ I chipped it out.テつ I had 76 meters or something to the pin for my fourth, and played it really safe, 2‑putt, thank you very much.

Q.テつ When you look at the base of that trophy, there are some greats of The European Tour that have won; what does it mean for your name to be on there, as well, now?
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ Well, it's a very humbling moment obviously, to have a look at these names.テつ Obviously I had an idea who is in it already, watching this tournament before I even came to the tour.テつ There's been some good winners of this tournament.テつ It's a big thing for me.

Q.テつ And now going inside the Top‑50, I think you're the first finish golfer; what will that mean to you personally and also to golf in Finland?
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ My goal‑‑ I set up my goals three years ago, when I was off for, what, six months or eight months because of ankle surgery.テつ I made a three‑year plan then, and I'm on the third year now.
I've gone according to the plan for the first two years, and on the third year, this is it.テつ I need to get to a really high number.テつ I'm on the right path but I need to win at least one more to get to my goal.テつ So I've got to the step that I can reach to my goals.テつ So my goals has been World Ranking‑based and they still are.

Q.テつ What would it mean in Finland?
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ It's big, and I've already noticed this week because Finland are not playing the World Cup.テつ Hopefully the other guys can benefit from this, as well.テつ That will be the main thing for me to give someone else.

Q.テつ Two major titles in Ireland, one as an amateur, one as a professional.テつ I'm sure Ireland has a special place in your heart.テつ On current form, you must be looking forward to Hoylake, a course you've played well in the past.
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ It's definitely a special place for me in Ireland.テつ Coming back to the west, I think it was '99 when I won there and a friend back home strongly believed that the Juniors and Amateurs back then, needed to learn links golf, and he took us to the West and we played some links golf, and I won the West.テつ And I won the Amateur, which really kickstarted my career.テつ That's why I'm here.テつ Without those wins, I wouldn't be here.
I definitely want to go back one day and see the places where we spent time in the late nine tees and early 2000s.
Hoylake coming in a few weeks' time, I've been looking forward to it for a long time, since I finished well last year in the Money List and I knew it was in the schedule.テつ Obviously I have a good record there and finished 16th last time around at The Open.
But I said it earlier; that I would like to go in between those crowds without (indiscernible) on Sunday, so that means I need to be a little bit better than 16th.

Q.テつ Does it surprise you at all that a tournament that attracts the bigger crowds and the Flagship Event at Wentworth, has had so many major championships playing, doesn't have a title sponsor and has a prize fund of only two million Euros, does that surprise you at all?
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ I guess it's surprising.テつ It's the times around us.テつ You know, to get that title sponsor, it needs the support from the players.テつ It starts from the players.テつ We get the field‑‑ obviously we have big enough crowds, but they want the best players to come over here.テつ They deserve to see the best players.テつ So the Irish players are doing what they can.テつ But then we need the internationals to come along with that.
We have to start attracting the international players to come and play here and keep the Irish players playing this tournament was crucial.

Q.テつ Wondering how you slept last night with the pack breathing down your neck?
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ What was the last match going on last night, Nigeria?テつ I tried to watch it and I probably fell asleep 20 minutes in, and I woke up 8:30 this morning, so it was a decent sleep.テつ I think it was just after 11 when I fell asleep.テつ I've had to do that every night this week, so I was sort of used to it, so no problems.

Q.テつ How did you feel on the first tee box, knowing it was effectively yours to lose, really?
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ The first tee shot has been pretty easy for me.テつ It suits my eye and I can aim wherever.テつ One day I managed to pull it back to the fairway and it's a hole that I sort of aim a little bit left and I can hit it as hard as I can and it won't go any further than five meters off the fairway.テつ It suits my eye, so I didn't really feel nervous at all.

Q.テつ Just wondering how the crucial lead par putts were on 12 and 13 that kept you two shots clear?
MIKKO ILONEN:テつ Yeah, 11, 12, 13‑‑ 11 was probably the easiest of them all.テつ It was outside right, a couple meters, probably a meter and a half.テつ But the one on 13 was crucial.テつ I didn't want to make a bogey.テつ I didn't want to make a bogey and give away my lead.テつ I wanted the guys to come after me, and all I had to do was basically protect.テつ I was hitting the ball good enough to do that.
And what happened on 13, I was supposed to play a little bit downwind, the tee shot, and just as I was over the ball, I made a mistake not getting up from it but I could feel a little puff into me and I went ahead and hit it a little bit.テつ Hit a bad shot but made a good three.テつ That was my biggest putt of the day.
PAUL SYMES:テつ Well done again, Mikko, and enjoy the celebrations.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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