Finland’s Mikko Ilonen defeated World Number five Henrik Stenson of Sweden to win the final of the Volvo World Match Play Championship at The London Golf Club in Kent, England. Stenson was top seed going into the week, but he had to fight hard to get past his countryman Jonas Blixt in the quarterfinals and then George Coetzee of South Africa in the semis.
Meanwhile, Scott Hend of Australia claimed his first European Tour victory in the Hong Kong Open. The 41-year-old defeated Angelo Que of The Philippines at the first hole of a sudden-death playoff. The big-hitting Australian, who plies his trade mainly on the Asian Tour, was making only his fifth start on the 2014 European Tour. But he made the very most of the opportunity, claiming a victory that will see him exempt on the circuit to the end of the 2015 season.
Here are three things we learned at the Volvo World Match Play:
1. Mikko Ilonen picked up €650,000 for his win in the Volvo World Match Play Championship. He has moved into the top-10 on the 2014 Race to Dubai and has climbed into the top-40 on the Official World Golf Ranking. It’s quite an achievement for a man who was outside the top-300 on that list just 18-months ago. The Finn is only the third continental European to triumph in this prestigious tournament, the others being Seve Ballesteros and Nicolas Colsaerts.
2. Henrik Stenson hasn’t won an event since the DP World Tour Championship at the conclusion of the 2013 European Tour season. Even so, he is still third on the 2014 Race to Dubai, following eight top-10 finishes in just 17 events on the circuit. The Swede is still way behind Rory McIlroy at the top of the pile though. The Northern Irishman has accrued some €5,400,000 on the 2014 European Tour while Stenson has just under €2,000,000, so the Northern Irishman is highly unlikely to be caught.
3. Of the six 2014 Ryder Cup players in the field at the London Club, Stenson was the only man to get past the quarterfinals. In that round, Victor Dubuisson of France lost out to Mikko Ilonen while Patrick Reed of the USA was defeated by George Coetzee. Graeme McDowell, Stephen Gallacher and Jamie Donaldson all failed to get past the group stages.
And now for the Hong Kong Open:
1. Scott Hend earned €170,000 and moved into the top-100 in the 2014 Race to Dubai. This was Hend’s 10th win as a professional but his first on the European Tour. Hend is one of the longest hitters in the world. In the first round at Fanling, he averaged an astonishing 331.5 yards off the tee. Last season, his driving average was 316.5 yards. To put that in perspective, Bubba Watson led the 2014 PGA Tour in average driving distance at 314.3 yards.
2. Four-time major champion Ernie Els was favourite going into the weekend at Hong Kong Golf Club. The South African fired a second round of 65 to take a two shot lead at the halfway stage. But “The Big Easy” struggled over the last two rounds as lesser lights shined. He played the closing 36-holes in level par to drop back into a tie for fifth place.
3. The European Tour and Asian Tour have confirmed the Hong Kong Open will be held once again in 2015 — from October 22-25. It is Hong Kong’s longest-running sporting event, having been hosted at Fanling since 1959. Next year will be the 125th anniversary of the Hong Kong Golf Club.