(Reuters) - Mikko Ilonen celebrated his 300th European Tour event with a one-shot victory at the Irish Open at the Fota Island Resort on Sunday, and revealed he had been inspired by Martin Kaymer’s U.S. Open win.
The Finn led the Cork event from start to finish, hitting a then course-record 64 in his first round on Thursday, before carding a final round one-under 70 and a win from Italian Edoardo Molinari (67).
Ilonen’s occupation of the top of the leaderboard for every day of the tournament was reminiscent of Kaymer at Pinehurst’s No.2 course a week ago and the Finn said he followed the German’s second major victory with keen interest.
“It was very much Martin Kaymer-inspired win,” Ilonen told the tour’s website (www.europeantour.com). “I sent a message to him last week that I really enjoyed watching golf.
“I very rarely enjoy watching golf; I would rather play golf, but Martin’s win inspired me. It was nice to keep that lead all the way.”
The 34-year-old started the day with a one-shot lead and birdies on the second and fourth helped him to keep the challengers at bay to win his fourth European title.
“I made sure that I paced myself well and I’m not too quick with things and keep my head up no matter what happens, and I kept on doing the same thing all the time, tried to hit the fairway,” Ilonen added.
“I looked back on the 18th green and I couldn’t believe how many people there were. It was a very humble moment.”
Englishman Danny Willet (71) bettered Ilonen’s course record with a third-round 63 on Saturday, including a hole-in-one, but could only finish in a share of third with compatriot Matthew Baldwin (69) and Kristoffer Broberg (69) of Sweden, two shots adrift of Ilonen.
Large crowds in Cork had hoped to cheer home-favorite Graeme McDowell to his first professional win in Ireland after watching his compatriot Rory McIlroy miss the cut on Friday, but McDowell could only manage a tied sixth place finish with a closing 71.
Reporting By Sam Holden; editing by Martyn Herman/Tony Goodson