The London Golf Club hosted the Volvo World Match Play in 2014. In its 50th anniversary this iconic Championship returned to its London roots, as well as its original format. The event took place on the International course.
Following an exciting final, Ilonen emerged as champion. Referring to all the previous famous winners, he said, “I think they are going to look at it and say, what is Mikko Ilonen doing there?! It’s amazing!! It’s going to take a little while to sink in. This is the perfect venue and everything worked great this week.”
Since halving his opening match on Wednesday, Stenson has won all of his matches, as has Ilonen since losing to Joost Luiten on the same day. After the tension of their semi-final victories and a short lunch break, fitness and stamina were likely to play their part in the afternoon.
Having been forced to lay up on the 1st after wayward drives, both players only just cleared the water with inches to spare before halving it, and the next two holes, in par. The Swede was first to draw blood with a two at the short 4th, but handed his lead straight back by dropping a shot at the next. Ilonen then sank a good putt for a two at the 8th after his opponent had hit into the water, which meant that he was 1-up at the turn. Halves in three at the 10th were followed by another birdie at the next to put Ilonen 2-up, and he extended his lead to three at the 12th after a par save from sand.
Stenson now had everything to do over the closing six holes and holed a crucial putt for birdie at the 13th to reduce the gap. Ilonen responded with a superb tee shot over the water and right over the flagstick at the 14th to restore his cushion, only for Stenson to birdie the next to pull it back to two. A half at the par-3 16th meant that when Stenson missed his birdie attempt at the 17th, he conceded his opponent’s putt to leave Ilonen as champion, 3&1. For the golfer from Finland, this is the fifth and biggest win of his professional career so far and moves him into the top 10 in the Race to Dubai.
Following his win, a delighted and modest Ilonen said, “It could have gone either way really. I had a better afternoon than he did. Tomorrow morning we could 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. It feels unreal when you look at all the names on the trophy.”
In the 3rd- and 4th-place play-off, Joost Luiten and George Coetzee did not share a hole until the 7th at which point the South African was 2-down, but he fought back well to level the match with a birdie at the 13th. It was then extremely close all the way until Luiten won the match at the first play-off hole.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the historic Volvo World Match Play Championship has another new name to add its illustrious list of winners – Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo… and for the first time, Mikko Ilonen..