Mikko Ilonen believes he is in good shape to make a strong defence of his Nordea Masters title this week, despite the event moving to a new course.
The Finn won what is effectively his regional open for the second time at Bro Hof Slott in Sweden 12 months ago en route to a career best finish of 23rd on The Race to Dubai.
A runner-up finish in Qatar this year has helped Ilonen to 26th in the current standings, and the 34 year old is confident he can perform well at the new PGA Sweden National venue near Malmo.
“It’s the second time now I’ve defended this title,” said Ilonen. “The first time I made a decent defence, even though I finish about 20th.
“I really enjoyed defending and the attention I got, and I’m expecting more of the same this week. I’ve got a good grouping with Jonas [Blixt] and Matteo [Manassero].
“I’m really looking forward to a new venue. I’ve not seen that many courses in Sweden - I’ve heard about this place but I’ve not seen it yet.”
Last year’s victory came after Ilonen had been a runner-up in two of his preceding four events, and he feels there is every chance of a repeat occurrence after some encouraging pieces of form of late.
“I had very high expectations building up to the tournament - I already had two second places finishes before my win in Stockholm last year,” he added.
“The timing of the win was perfect for me. If I didn’t win then I would have got frustrated in June and July.
“I felt my game was coming good in the PGA the week before and the week in Stockholm felt easy; I just played golf.
“To actually win that week, almost at a home tournament for me because this is as close as it gets, was special. I had the local support and support from back home – lots of my friends. A lot of others were expecting that win too, so it came at the perfect time for me.
“It’s been up and down for me this year. Thankfully the highs are there. The good is good enough to compete with these fields. Last week I was expecting big things at the PGA but it didn’t quite happen for me.
“I had a little problem with my neck and I was close to pulling out, but I’m fit again after some treatment with my physio and it’s behind me. You never know, the game felt good going into the PGA. I sort of lost it a little there, so it will be interesting to pick up the clubs again and see how it feels and how the course suits my eye.
“I still feel I can fly under the radar a bit and the attention is not on me. But last year it felt like more attention with TV interviews beforehand and then when I was doing well after round two. I don’t have the same pressure as the locals have though, so it is nice.”