Cork - Finland's
Mikko Ilonen has ignored the script to easily outshine his more-fancied
local rivals, including double Major-winning Rory McIlroy, on the
opening day of the Irish Open on Thursday.
Ilonen, 34, celebrated
his 300th European Tour event by setting a new course record of
seven-under-par 64 in superb scoring conditions on the Fota Island
course in Cork.
The Finn ended the round with a two-shot lead over
the trio of Germany's Marcel Siem and the Swedish pair of Robert
Karlsson and Magnus Carlsson.
In contrast, McIlroy, the highest
world-ranked player in the field at No 6, finds himself starting the
second round sharing 125th place in the 156-strong field.
could manage just three birdies and double the number of bogeys in a
three-over-par 74 to trail the triple Tour-winning Finn by 10 shots.
Ilonen capped his round by birdying five of his closing seven holes and taking just 26 putts.
couple of weeks ago in Sweden I was playing really well and I finished
32nd, and it's still really a mystery how I finished 32nd that week,
because I was actually hitting my best shots of the year there," said
"I felt really calm with the putter and today really it's just still there but we still have a long way to go."
while Ilonen sets his sights on a fourth Tour victory, he also is
looking to break into the world's top 50 for the first time in his
He is currently ranked 63rd, one place lower than his career high of 62nd in December 2007.
however, paid a price for disruptions to his preparation including
losing his clubs and struggling to hit just eight of the 14 fairways and
taking 30 putts in a round of 74.
"I've still got a little bit of jet-lag, for sure, coming from the US Open," he said.
wasn't able to do much on Monday or Tuesday because the clubs didn't
arrive until yesterday so that was a little bit frustrating more than
"But I did a really good practice session on the range last night after the Pro-Am and was feeling good going out this morning.
I just couldn't really put it together as I was very sloppy with the
scoring clubs today, wedges, the short game, the putting. All that was
just a little off.
"So hopefully that is my poor round for the
week and I can do a better job of that tomorrow and obviously I'll need
something in the low 60s just to be here on the weekend."