ASH England (Reuters) - Finland’s Mikko Ilonen called for the World Match Play Championship to remain in England after becoming the first Scandinavian winner of the tournament on Sunday.
This is the last year of Volvo’s sponsorship and there is a question mark hovering over the event that was held at nearby Wentworth from its inception in 1964 until 2007.
The Match Play has lost some of its luster in recent seasons, moving to Spain for three years, Bulgaria in 2013 and disappearing from the calendar completely in 2008 and 2010, and Ilonen believes it is best to stage the competition in England.
“I was very happy to see the tournament come to the UK,” Ilonen told reporters after causing a surprise by beating world number five Henrik Stenson 3 & 1 in the final at the London Club.
”I’ve always felt the crowds here really appreciate it and they know their golf. It would be nice if this tournament settles somewhere and why not the London Club?
”This is the perfect venue and everything worked great this week. It was challenging at the beginning because there was quite a lot of rain but they did a great job to get the course ready.
“I‘m not speaking for the other players but I think they would want to keep it here too,” said Ilonen after picking up the first prize of 650,000 euros ($829,205), almost double his previous biggest payday from winning the Irish Open in June.
Defeat for Stenson means he is still waiting for his first victory of the year, after being one of world golf’s standout performers in 2013, but he reflected positively on the five-day event.
“It’s always fun to play match play,” said the Swede, a member of Europe’s triumphant Ryder Cup side in Scotland last month.
“It’s been a good week with all the boys -- we all stayed in the same place. It’s also a long, hard draining week but a fun week too.”
($1 = 0.7839 euro)
Editing by Gene Cherry