Off track but on course
Heikki Kovalainen talks about his latest golfing exploits and picks his favourites ahead of The Open Championship
By William Esler. Last Updated: July 2, 2012 10:27am
Sky Sports: How is your form on the course at the moment?
HK: It is okay. I'm trying to work on my tee shots at the moment that is probably the weakest area, but it is okay. I haven't played a lot over the last few weeks, I have been busy with the other things. But, I think it is not too bad.
Sky Sports: How difficult is it to find time to play on a race week, with all the preparation you need to do, plus sponsor events?
HK: Especially during the European season it is quite tough. Races tend to be from Wednesday evening onwards and there is not enough time at all to even go and hit some balls. There is a full on schedule with the teams and racing things so there is only a few days of each week and then if we have any other programs then even that is taken away. So the best chance is really on the fly away races. Sometimes on the fly away races we stay on the other side of the world to keep in the time zone and get the body in the time zone, so that is the best time for me to play golf. Usually that's when I get the best scores as well because I get to play a few days in a row and I can go on the range and practice a bit more as well.
Sky Sports: Did you find any nice courses when you were travelling?
HK: There are a lot of nice courses. I didn't play any big major tournament courses, but I played a lot of other nice courses, particularly in Malaysia and China and that part of the world. Then sometimes I go and play some public courses that are not so big and just join some local guys and play. It is good fun. Some courses are bigger, some courses are smaller but overall it is all good fun.
Sky Sports: How low is your handicap now?
HK: It is 4.2 now, I think it will be difficult to improve, I would need to spend more time on it. There are weeks when I don't get to touch my clubs then the next couple of times are pretty shocking, so it takes a bit of time to get back to speed. But it is okay, if I have a really, really bad round it is usually low to mid-eighties, which is okay, then a good round is near par. I don't stress about it too much. I just try to enjoy it and if I haven't played much then I don't really expect much from myself anyway. I enjoy the game, I have reached a level where I can play the game, I can hit the ball forward most of the time and I'm not totally lost and disturbing other people.
Sky Sports: Don't worry, it is still a lot lower than my handicap.
HK: (Laughs) it doesn't matter. I play with my dad sometimes and he plays off 28 or 30. But we have good fun, and the main thing is you enjoy the game and like I said sometimes I have some good rounds sometimes I have some bad rounds but that's how golf is, that's what the pros get as well. I don't worry about the handicap too much, but I think if I really, really worked on it I could get lower, but it would take up too much time.
Sky Sports: Back in the UK then ahead of Silverstone, what courses will you be looking to play?
HK: Hopefully at the beginning of next week I will have a few days and squeeze a few holes in. Whittlebury Hall at Silverstone, hopefully I will get to play there, then around the Oxford area, I have a few friends who live there, I might go and play a few holes. There is a small course, Chipping Norton, one of my friends is a member there and then I'm heading with the team to Norfolk so maybe a few holes there as well. It is difficult to get a whole round in with the schedule, because every day either morning or afternoon I have other things, so I probably don't get a chance to play a whole round. But I like to go out and hit a few shots, it is good fun. Ian Poulter has a house near Silverstone, but he is away playing in France, but hopefully after that I can maybe get a few holes with him as well.
Sky Sports: And speaking of your good friends, how did you feel seeing your good friend Mikko Ilonen finish in the top 3 in Sweden recently?
HK: It was great and he is doing well in the Irish Open this week as well (Ilonen went on to finish tied 10th after a closing 67) so it is great to see him doing well. I know, in the last year, he has made a lot of changes to his swing and also had an operation on his ankle. He had an ankle problem for a long time and it was starting to really bother him so he needed to take a break and fix his ankle. I think he has come back quite nicely and hit some really nice rounds, he qualified for the US Open as well, didn't quite make the cut, I think he was one shot shy, but it is good to see him doing well and he is getting towards winning tournaments and hopefully he will win a few more this year.
Sky Sports: Have you got to see much of the Irish Open?
HK: I caught a little bit yesterday before I had to catch a flight, but today I have just been keeping updated from my phone with the scores.
Sky Sports: Have you seen enough of Royal Portrush to make you want to test your skills there?
HK: Yeah, it looks like a great course, it would be great to go there - I just don't know when I would get a chance to do that, we need to get a race in Ireland, something like that. I've never actually been in Ireland, but I will have to go there. I have heard about the courses, and there are great courses there.
Sky Sports: The Open Championship is just a few weeks away. Who is your money on?
HK: That is a good question. I would probably go for a European guy to win it. Last year Darren Clarke winning it was great. Obviously I'd like to see Poulter up there, I think he has been in pretty good form actually. He hasn't quite won tournaments, but he has been in contention a few times and he was in contention at the Masters and after a couple of days in the US Open also looked like he was there, but not quite so I'd like him to be up there. It is going to be a close call, there are a lot of good players. I mean Paul Lawrie has been playing really well recently and he could be one surprise, but it is hard to pick, there are so many good guys who can do well there, but I would like to think it would be a European. I don't expect it to be anyone else but we will see.
* Heikki Kovalainen was talking to William Esler