Thursday, 13 March 2008

A fine opening score of five under par 67 saw Mikko Ilonen of Finland take the early lead at the inaugural Ballantine’s Championship.

Ilonen’s bogey free opening score saw him forge ahead of Korean Hwang Inn-Choon, Japan’s Shingo Katayama, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and India’s Jeev Milkha Singh at the Pinx Golf Club on the holiday island of Jeju in Korea, while Open Champion Padraig Harrington carded a first round of one under par 71.

Ilonen is hoping to recapture the form that saw him win twice on The European Tour International Schedule this year.
“I got off to a quick start, birdie on the first and good opportunity on the second and made one on the third again, so I was quickly three under,” said Ilonen.

“Then, probably the second toughest hole on the front nine I made a bogey, into the wind, a long hole, the par four.  All in all I played solid on the back nine, as well.

“This is the best round I have had for a while - I've made a lot of cuts, but I haven't really played that well.  I've been kind of building on something and it's getting a little bit better all the time.

“I've been very patient with my game.  It has not been on that level that I was expecting.  But I had a long break during Christmas time, so, you know, it's a long season. Plus for the last two weeks, I've been sick, in India and in Malaysia, and played four round of golf in both tournaments.  But this week, I feel better for the first time in about a month.”

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