Mikko Ilonen: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Mikko Ilonen PGA Championship

Ilonen tees off Friday at Valhalla. (Getty)

None of the names near the top of the leaderboard Sunday at the PGA Championship are a bigger surprise than 34-year-old Finn Mikko Ilonen.

Ilonen enters the day at 9-under, trailing leader Rory McIlory by just four strokes — the best showing of his career at a major and by far his best at a tournament in the United States.

Here’s what you need to know about him:

1. Until This Year, He’d Never Made the Cut at a Major in the U.S.

Mikko Ilonen pants

Ilonen sporting bright green pants in the first round on Thursday. (Getty)

In 14 years as a pro, Ilonen has made the cut at a major tournament just four times, and all three have come at the British Open.

His career appeared off to a promising start when he finished tied for ninth at the British Open as a 21-year-old rookie in 2001. But he’s appeared in only seven majors since then, missing the cut in four of them and never finishing better than tied for 16th, a feat he accomplished at the Open in 2006.

2. It’s Only His 2nd Appearance at the PGA Championship

Mikko Ilonen bridge

Ilonen walks across a bridge Friday. (Getty)

Ilonen’s only other appearance at the PGA Championship came last year, when he missed the cut. That made it all the more eye-opening to everyone — including Ilonen — that he’s played so well on the tournament’s first two days.

Ilonen’s history at the Masters and U.S. Open is similarly forgettable. His only appearance at Augusta National came in 2001, when he missed the cut. He’s appeared at the U.S. Open twice — in 2010 and 2012 — and missed the cut both times.

3. He’s Won 4 Tournaments on the European Tour

Mikko Ilonen Indonesian Open

Indonesian vice president Jusuf KallaIlonen presents Ilonen with his first career winner’s check at the Indonesian Open in 2007. (Getty)

Ilonen’s first win came at the 2007 Indonesian Open. He won later that year at the Scandanavian Masters, but didn’t win again until 2013, when he won the Nordea Masters by shooting a sizzling 21-under par.

His fourth win came at this year’s Irish Open, where he finished at 13-under and took home $447,000 (€333,330) — the biggest chunk of prize money he’s won on the European Tour.

A second-place finish at the Qatar Masters and his win in Ireland helped propel him into the world top 50 for the first time. (He’s since dropped to 54th.)

4. He Was the 1st Finn to Win the British Amateur & to Win on the European Tour

Mikko Ilonen British Amateur

Ilonen poses with his trophy after winning the Brisith Amateur Championship at Royal Liverpool in 2000. (Getty)

Ilonen won the Amateur Championship at Royal Liverpool in 2000, becoming the first Finn to win that title. Seven years later, his win at the Indonesian Open made him the first Finn to win on the European Tour international schedule.

He’s seeking a much bigger historical feat this weekend, though. No player from Finland or anywhere else in Scandanavia has ever won a major — something both Ilonen and Henrik Stenson of Sweden are trying to change. (Stenson enters play Saturday tied for ninth at 5-under.)

5. He’s Married With 2 Young Kids

Mikko Ilonen wife, Mikko Ilonen kids, Mikko Ilonen son, Kati Ilonen

Ilonen celebrates with his wife, Kati, and their son, Eino, after winning the Scandinavian Masters in 2013. (Getty)

Ilonen, born in Lahti, Finland, married his wife Kati in 2010. The couple has two young children: Eino, born in 2011, and Elma, born in 2013.

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