Mikko Ilonen (pictured by Getty Images) 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 & 1 and secure the first prize of €650,000 – almost double his previous biggest payday from winning the Irish Open in June.
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 gain on the fourth.
But 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, Dubai in November last year, 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&1 in the semi-finals – secured the biggest win of his career.
Luiten finished in third place after beating Coetzee in the consolation match.
“This is definitely the best season of my career by far. Obviously last year was a good for me, and 2007 was also a good year. I’ve had a few of them, but if you look at all the World Ranking points I’ve earned and my place on the Money List, then obviously this is on top.
“It could have gone either way really, we were very tightly matched but I had a better afternoon than he did. Tomorrow morning if we played again, it might go the other way. We were obviously playing for the trophy as hard as we could, I came out on top and I’m very, very glad that I did. When you see some of the names on this trophy, I can’t quite believe mine is now on there alongside them.”
“I actually exceeded my expectations for the week. When Jonas took me to the 18th yesterday, I felt like I was running low on energy, and against Joost this morning, the same thing.
“So I don’t know where I found that energy to finish that match off in the morning, and 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 in the final. 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.”