• Victory is 34-year-old's second of the season.
• Moves to tenth on Race To Dubai and into world's top 40.
VOLVO WORLD MATCHPLAY
Mikko Ilonen has become the first Finnish player to win the Volvo World Match Play Championship after a hard-fought victory over top seed Henrik Stenson at London Golf Club.
Ilonen, 34, carded four birdies on his way to a 3&1 win for his second European Tour victory of the season, following his Irish Open triumph in June.
He also pocketed a cheque for €650,000 to climb to tenth on the Race To Dubai and he also moves into the world’s top 40.
"This is definitely the best season of my career by far,” said the Finn. “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.”
Having claimed the scalp of Holland’s Joost Luiten 2&1 in the morning’s semi-finals, Mikko Ilonen, pictured below commiserating with Stenson, found himself trailing early on in the final but fought back to claim a deserved victory.
"It could have gone either way really,” he added. “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."
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 No.5 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 last year's DP World Tour Championship, 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-5 15th, but was unable to birdie either of the next two holes as Ilonen held on to secure the biggest win of his career.
“I didn't play my best in the final,” admitted Stenson. “I was a bit unlucky on a couple of putts but 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 consolation match, Luiten defeated Coetzee at the first extra hole of a play-off.
Mikko Ilonen :: Can he become a major force?
After the best season of his career, do you think Mikko Ilonen has what it takes to challenge for majors in 2015? Leave your thoughts in our 'Comments' section below.