Mikko Ilonen claimed a record-breaking 8 and 7 victory over Frenchman Matthieu Pavon to ease into the second round of the Saltire Energy Paul Lawrie Match Play at Golf Resort Bad Griesbach.
History had already been made in the morning session as Italy’s Edoardo Molinari beat Robert Karlsson of Sweden on the 24th hole in the longest match in the tournament’s history, and the books were opened once again in the afternoon.
The Finn’s crushing triumph was the biggest win ever in the event and set up a second-round clash against local favourite Marcel Siem.
Ilonen has some match play pedigree having won the Volvo World Match Play Championship in 2014 and was simply unstoppable from the off on Thursday afternoon.
He birdied the first and second before putting a three wood to tap-in range on the third for an eagle. He birdied the fifth, won the sixth with a par, and then won the eighth, ninth and tenth and ended the match eight under for 11 holes.
It was a good day for the host nation with Siem’s win following victories for Florian Fritsch in the morning, Maximilian Kieffer and Alexander Knappe. Top seed Matthew Southgate of England also progressed from the afternoon wave along with tournament host, Scotland’s Paul Lawrie.
Lawrie holed clutch putts on the 18th and 20th to beat former Ryder Cup team-mate Peter Hanson of Sweden and will next face Spaniard Alejandro Cañizares, a 3 and 1 winner over England’s Richard Bland.
Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard, who tasted match play success at the inaugural GolfSixes event earlier this year, got the day off to a flying start in the opening match, defeating Daniel Im of the USA 6 and 4.
“I started birdie, birdie, eagle, so it was a fast start, definitely. I hit my three wood on the third hole to about a foot. I just kept the gas on the floor and I think it was about eight under when we finished on the 11th.
“In match play anything can happen. Even if I was three up after three I could have been one down after nine, you never know how it goes. Today was my day and Matthew didn’t get anything going, I think he just made one birdie and that was it.
“The game is definitely feeling better. There has been a few changes. I’m not sure if it’s showing in the swing, but at least it feels different, so I can definitely hit better shots right now. It’s some progress, so it’s nice to get something going late in the summer.
“I have a little history with Marcel. We’ve know each other since we were juniors, so that will be a fun match.”
“It was a very long game. Robert played quite good in the beginning and I was struggling on the front nine. On the back nine I started to play well, and then we both had a mess on the 18th.
“It was a difficult match. When none of the two players are playing well it’s extremely difficult to hit good shots because you keep looking at the other player and you lose your focus a bit.
“And then in the play-off, we finally hit the ball good and had a lot of chances but couldn’t make the putts. I’m very happy that I came out on top.”
“It was a good match, I was two up early and then Peter made a couple of birdies and I made one mistake. He kind of pegged me back and we were pretty much level or one down all the way.
“Then I just pushed my tee shot off 18. It’s such a hard tee shot, you’ve got to get it just in the right place there. I was up in the rough and got a flyer then made a lovely up and down to keep it going. Overall it was a tight match, so it’s nice to come through.
“I’ve known Alejandro Canizares for a long time. I’m old enough to have played with his dad, which is quite sad to be fair. His old man was a hell of a player. So, I’m looking forward to that tomorrow.”
“It was a tough match, I was really fired up. It was kind of cool with that format. I was a little nervous last night, I felt the pressure already. Usually you think on Thursday or Friday “just get through the cut” and then the weekend is the exciting bit.
“I started off nicely with a lot of confidence and hit great drives. My iron game was not that good, but I’m over the moon that I went through. On the back nine the pressure raised and yeah, I went through it. It was really enjoyable. I hit some good shots and holed some nice pressure putts, which is important for me because my putting was not the best all year.
“Mikko and I played amateur golf together, I know how good he is on match play. He was British Amateur winner, but I’ve beat him a few times as well. Maybe he unloaded all of his ammunition today, which would be good for me tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to it. The better one will win. We’re good friends so it will be a lot of fun out there tomorrow.”
“I played nicely, especially the last few holes, I finished with six birdies in a row and I don’t think I’ve done that before.
“The GolfSixes was a lot of fun. I’ve always enjoyed match play but the last couple of years I haven’t had much success here. You play the opponent a lot more, normally you play the course.
“I’ve been struggling with my bad shots being really bad and leading to double-bogeys or triple -bogeys. Here, you hit a bad shot, you lose a ball, you go on to the next hole. It’s a bit different and I quite like it, I hope I can continue some of that form.”