Sunday, 22 June 2014
Mikko Ilonen is presented with the trophy by Enda Kenny TD, An Taoiseach, and George O'Grady  (Getty Images)
Mikko Ilonen is presented with the trophy by Enda Kenny TD, An Taoiseach, and George O'Grady (Getty Images)

Mikko Ilonen completed a wire-to-wire victory as he celebrated his 300th European Tour appearance by winning the Irish Open at Fota Island Resort.

Ilonen carded a final round of 70 to finish 13 under par, one shot ahead of Italy's Edoardo Molinari, with Sweden's Kristoffer Broberg and English duo Danny Willett and Matthew Baldwin another shot back in third.

Graeme McDowell had been hoping to claim a first professional victory in Ireland in front of the massive crowds in Cork, but struggled on the greens and had to settle for a closing 71 and a share of sixth with Magnus A Carlsson, his first top-ten finish in 13 appearances in the event.

Ilonen established a new course record of 64 in the opening round and although that only lasted until Willett, aided by a hole-in-one, shot 63 on Saturday, the 34 year old Finn took a one shot lead into the final round.

Birdies on the second and fourth took Ilonen three clear of the field until Willett carded his second birdie of the day on the ninth, but that was as close as anyone got until Ilonen dropped his only shot of the day on the last, ironically after hitting an iron off the tee for safety.

English teenager Matt Fitzpatrick, who was the only amateur to make the cut in the US Open last week, finished in a tie for 29th in his first tournament as a professional following a closing 68.

Ilonen's victory was the second wire-to-wire effort in as many weeks on The European Tour after Martin Kaymer's triumph at Pinehurst No.2, and the Finn admitted he had been inspired by The Ryder Cup hero.

“It was very much a Martin Kaymer-inspired win,” he said. “I sent a message to him last week that I really enjoyed watching golf. 

“I very rarely enjoy watching golf; I would rather play golf, but Martin's win inspired me. It was nice to keep that lead all the way.

“I made sure that I paced myself well and I'm not too quick with things and keep my head up no matter what happens, and I kept on doing the same thing all the time, tried to hit the fairway. I hit a lot of greens today and kept okay pace with my putting.

“I looked back on the 18th green and I couldn't believe how many people there were.  It's nice to see - it was a very humble moment.”
 
"I had a number in my head all week that I tried to get to and I missed it by a mile." 

That number was 21 under par and having fallen eight shots short, Ilonen added: "It's been a hard day's work to keep that lead and luckily no-one really made a run out of the last couple of groups. I played good enough to make some birdies and I did not have to."

Victory also takes Ilonen to the verge of a coveted place inside the Official World Golf Ranking's top 50, which would secure entry into Major Championships and WGC events.

He won the Amateur Championship at Hoylake in 2000 and was 16th in the Open there in 2006, so was understandably excited by the prospect of returning to Royal Liverpool for The Open next month.

He added: "I've been thinking about it a lot since I qualified off the Order of Merit last year. I am looking forward to it and hope I can keep this run going. I would like to go in between those big crowds on Sunday, so that means I need to be a little bit better than 16th."

Molinari, Willett and Baldwin will also be at Hoylake after securing the three available places via the new Open Qualifying Series, with Baldwin edging out Broberg due to his better world ranking.

McDowell was left to rue a poor putting performance which meant he recorded just one birdie, the former US Open Champion also three-putting the fourth for a par five and the 15th for his solitary bogey.

"Perhaps one of the worst putting weekends of my career when in contention," McDowell said. "I let a lot slip away yesterday and continued in the same vein today.

"So I'm kind of focusing on the big picture this week, looking at the summer and looking at the two Major Championships coming up and Ryder Cups and all kinds of fun things to look forward to. My game is in great shape and there are a lot of positives this week."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1ILONEN, MikkoFIN18-13
2MOLINARI, EdoardoITA18-12
T3BALDWIN, MatthewENG18-11
T3BROBERG, KristofferSWE18-11
T3WILLETT, DannyENG18-11
T6CARLSSON, Magnus ASWE18-10

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