Match Play champion Ilonen over the dreaded yips now

Mon Oct 20, 2014 5:54am EDT
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By Tony Jimenez

LONDON (Reuters) - Nine years after Mikko Ilonen was at his wits end with the dreaded putting yips, the Finn has finally cracked golf's big time by winning the Volvo World Match Play Championship.

His 3 & 1 victory over world number five Henrik Stenson in an all-Nordic final at the London Club on Sunday not only clinched his biggest payday, it also catapulted the 34-year-old to a career high 37th in the rankings.

The blond Ilonen now knows he can plan for his first U.S. Masters appearance as a professional at Augusta in April, as well as prepare to receive invitations to the three other majors and all the World Golf Championship events.

"It's been a goal of mine to be able to get a schedule where you can pick and choose wherever you want to play," he told reporters after picking up the first prize of 650,000 euros ($829,725).

"I can do that now so it's a good situation. I can play the bigger tournaments. I've been striving for that for the last couple of years."

It is almost a decade since he was afflicted by the yips but Ilonen still looks upon his left hand as next to useless when he grips the shortest club in the bag.

"At the end of 2005, the beginning of 2006, I made a couple of decisions concerning my putting," said the 6-foot-1 (1.87-metre) Finn. "And from there I've turned the page and never really looked back.

"I've had my problems with the putter and I never wish anyone to experience the problems I had. Anyone who has been there, you know how bad they are."   Continued...