Mikko Ilonen lands Volvo World Match Play titleOctober, 2014
Finland's finest beats Henrik Stenson 3&1 in thrilling final at London Club
Finland’s Mikko Ilonen upset the odds by beating number one seed Henrik Stenson in a hard-fought final in the Volvo World Match Play.
It was a fifth European Tour victory for Ilonen who beat Holland’s Joost Luiten in the semi-final to set up a showdown with Stenson.
And despite windy conditions at London Golf Club, Illonen made four birdies and no bogey’s to see off the Swede 3&1.
The 650,000 Euro first prize nearly doubles his pay day from his victory at the Irish Open earlier this year.
The Finn admitted he felt comfortable going up against the formidable Stenson.
“I see Henrik as one of the world’s top players obviously but I see him as my friend,” Ilonen said
“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. 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.”
“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.”
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" The result cements Ilonen’s place in the world’s top 50 which means he can now plan his schedule around the biggest events on the calendar
“It’s been a goal of mine to be in the Top‑50 in the world and to be able to pick and choose your schedule,” he added.
“I’ve been able to play, every now and then, a bigger tournament, a major and now a couple of World events, and now I’d like to build my season around those big events. And now I’m going to be able to do that.”
Stenson admitted he didn’t play his best in the final but insisted Ilonen was a worthy champion.
“I actually exceeded my expectations for the week for sure already,” Stenson said.
“And already when Jonas took me to the 18th yesterday, I felt like we were running low on energy.
“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 George Coetzee on the 19th hole after they were locked at all square.
Wales Open winner Luiten is looking forward to next year’s event after winning five of his six matches.
“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,” Luiten said.