Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Kim Koivu became the first Finn to win his country’s biggest golf tournament after birdieing the first play-off hole to claim the Vierumäki Finnish Challenge title over Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre.

Koivu and MacIntyre began the final round as co-leaders on 15 under par amidst a bunched leaderboard, but the duo almost immediately turned Day Four into a two-horse race.

The Finn began his round with three-consecutive birdies and appeared to be marching towards victory as he carded a front-nine of six under par 30. MacIntyre gave chase however, and he turned in five under par 31 after a flurry of his own, highlighted by an eagle on the short par five 9th.

“Rob hit a great wedge there to almost an impossible pin,” Koivu said. “He hit it to two feet, and after that I was definitely feeling like ‘whoa this is getting serious now.’”

Both players were spurred on by the battle that was emerging, and after gains on the 12th and 13th holes, MacIntyre was rapidly transforming from the hunter to the hunted.

“The front nine got me going but I made a couple mistakes there on the back nine and then I three-putted on 14 and Rob got the lead,” said Koivu.

The Scot carried a one shot advantage all the way to the 17th hole before a Koivu birdie knotted things up with one to play. When both players parred the 72nd hole, they headed back to the 18th tee for a sudden-death play-off, where Koivu emerged victorious after burying a 15-foot birdie putt.

“I only saw the hole, really. There was no option other than the ball going into the hole, that’s all I saw,” said Koivu. “I just feel like when you’ve got to make a putt you make it.”

“It was just a great battle with Rob, he played awesome. He put the pressure on me all the way around and I just kept fighting, and I was the lucky one to come out on top.

“Holing those putts coming down the stretch there on 17, and then in the play-off, it just feels great. I couldn’t think of a better place to win than on home soil, that’s for sure.”

With the win — his second of the season after taking the Belt & Road Colorful Yunnan Open — the 27 year old moves to the fourth position on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah and makes serious headway towards earning his European Tour card.

It was an incredible week for Finnish golf at the Vierumäki Resort Cooke Course, as native sons Antti Ahokas and Kalle Samooja joined Koivu inside the tournament’s top- five. Samooja also retained his fifth position on the Road to Ras Al Khaimah as the Nordic country can now boast two of its own among the season-long point race front-runners.

For his efforts, MacIntyre moves 45 places up the Rankings and now sits in the 27th position — within shouting distance of finishing the season inside the coveted top 15.

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