Sunday, 19 October 2014
Mikko Ilonen   (Getty Images)
Mikko Ilonen (Getty Images)

Mikko Ilonen became the first Finnish player to win the Volvo World Match Play Championship after a hard-fought victory over Number One seed Henrik Stenson at London Golf Club.

Ilonen carded four birdies and no bogeys despite the windy conditions to win 3 and 1 and secure the first prize of 650,000 euros, almost double his previous biggest payday from winning the Irish Open in June.

He said: “I see Henrik as one of the world's top players obviously but I see him as my friend. 

“He didn't intimidate me at all. We've played so much golf together over the years, so I felt quite comfortable playing with him.

“It could have gone either way really. I had a better afternoon than he did. (If) tomorrow morning we play, it might go the other way. 

“But we were obviously playing for the trophy as hard as we could, and I came out on top.”

Stenson, who had not led at any stage of his morning semi-final against George Coetzee before making a birdie on the 18th to triumph, claimed an early lead in the final with a birdie on the fourth.

However, the World Number Five then bogeyed the fifth and hit his tee shot into the water on the eighth, before birdies on the tenth and 12th took Ilonen three up.

Stenson, still seeking his first win since the DP World Tour Championship in November last year which meant he became the first man to win the FedEx Cup and Race to Dubai in the same season, refused to throw in the towel and birdied the 13th to reduce his deficit.

But after almost holing his chip from the back of the 14th green, the Swede could only look on as Ilonen holed from 12 feet for birdie to move three ahead again, this time with just four holes remaining.

Stenson fought back once more with a two putt birdie on the par five 15th, but was unable to birdie either of the next two holes as Ilonen - who had beaten Joost Luiten 2 and 1 in the semi-finals - secured the biggest win of his career.

Ilonen added: “Obviously last year was a good for me and 2007 was a good year. I've had a few of them but if you look at all the World Rankings and Money List and the tournaments ‑ obviously this is on top.”

Stenson said: “I actually exceeded my expectations for the week for sure already. And already when Jonas took me to the 18th yesterday, I felt like we were running low on energy, and against Joost this morning, same thing. 

“So I don't know where I found that energy to finish that match off in the morning. So I was quite low on energy in the afternoon. 

“I feel like I've been battling my swing a little bit in these gusting conditions the last day and a half. 

“I didn't play my best. I was a bit unlucky on a couple of putts but no question, Mikko didn't make any mistakes really and when he did, he recovered well. So all the credit to him for his fine performance this week.” 

In the third/fourth place play-off, Luiten beat Coetzee on the 19th hole after they were locked at all square. 

The Dutchman has relished his time in Kent, winning five of his six matches, and said: “It's a great format and great experience to go all the way to Sunday and I learned a lot again and I'll be back in the future.”

Coetzee only got into the event on Monday as a replacement for the injured Thomas Bjørn and at 89th in the world was the lowest ranked player in the 16 man field.

But he grasped his opportunity with both hands, beating the likes of last year’s runner-up Thongchai Jaidee and United States Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed along the way.

The South African said: "It was great. I wasn't expecting that I would be here, first reserve on Sunday, but came here with some nice form and played some good golf and picked up a nice cheque.

“I came here to compete. I'm happy with the way I played and maybe a couple results go the other way, and all in all it's a good week.”

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Pos Player nameNatHolePar
T1REED, PatrickUSA-
T1JAIDEE, ThongchaiTHA-

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