• Qatar Masters

Qatar hero Garcia rocks Ilonen in play-off

ESPN staff
January 25, 2014
Garcia shows off his 11th European Tour title © Getty Images

Sergio Garcia is back inside the world top 10 after seeing off Mikko Ilonen at the third extra hole to win the Qatar Masters at Doha Golf Club.

The pair locked horns in a sudden-death shootout at the par-5 18th having finished at 16-under par, with three extra holes needed to separate them.

A third straight birdie - fourth if you count the 72nd hole - down the last earned Garcia the victory after Ilonen could only manage par having found first the rough and then the bunker.

Garcia had been millimetres from victory at the first extra hole. The Spaniard watched on as Ilonen dropped left himself some 30-feet from the pin to set up an eagle chance, before Garcia knocked it well inside his opponent's ball. Ilonen fell short, Garcia's put for the win refused to break from the right and stayed out.

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At the second time of asking, Garcia's approach found the sand - but a superb up-and-down gave him yet another birdie. Ilonen, who had found the back of the green, failed with his lengthy eagle putt and they returned to the tee again for the final time.

In regulation play, Garcia had set the clubhouse lead with a flawless 65 to reach 16-under par thanks to birdies at one, seven, nine, 10, 11, 14 and 16.

The score looked enough for outright victory, but Ilonen had other plans. The Finn left himself some 15-feet to match Garcia's score - and rolled him it home dead centre.

"What a putt," Garcia muttered, watching on from the locker room. Ilonen punched the air in delight.

Thorbjorn Olesen and Rafael Cabrera-Bello also had chances to join in the play-off, but both fell short by a single stroke.

By the time Garcia had posted his score, Olesen was one behind with two to play. But the Dane found a green-side bunker at the par-3 17th and failed to get up and down. An eagle was needed up 18, and he gave himself a great chance with a magnificent second shot which left him barely 10-feet - but the putt refused to drop.

Cabrera-Bello also found himself two behind Garcia and Ilonen standing on the 17th tee. He carded a par and he too would need an eagle at the last. It looked unlikely when he flew the green, but an excellent chip from the rough was on line but fell inches short - leaving Cabrera-Bello settling for a tie for third with Olesen.

"It feels good," Garcia, who lost by a single shot last year when Chris Wood eagled the final hole, said.

"It's funny because I started the day thinking if I can shoot six or seven under maybe I can have a chance, and it turns out I had a very similar putt that I had last year to get it to 17-under on 18. I hit a good putt and unfortunately it didn't break.

"The up-and-down from the bunker in the play-off was key and I'm very happy to be able to win it."

The play-off was Garcia's seventh on the European Tour and had only won two of his previous six.

"I almost feel less pressure because you feel like you've had a great week already and if you win it's kind of like a little bit of a bonus.

"It's been an amazing week already and I was definitely more nervous on my tee shot on the 18th [in regulation play] than in the play-off. That's probably why I hit three better tee shots."

Ilonen could only manage par at the third extra hole to hand victory to Garcia © Getty Images
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