Mikko Ilonen’s composed performance to clinch the Irish Open has put him in Ryder Cup contention, says Gary Murphy.
The Finland player produced a trouble-free one-under final round to finish one clear of Edoardo Molinari on 13-under but was barely threatened throughout the day.
The result could propel Ilonen into the top 50 and 16-time Irish Open competitor Murphy told Sky Sports this big win could inspire him to achieve great things over the coming months.
“He said he felt on Thursday that he had the game to win it, the mind to win it and he proved that today,” said Murphy.
“Moving into the top 50 is huge. It’s going to possibly propel him into Ryder Cup status. In the big events the prize money is huge, the world ranking points are huge – and this could be his opportunity to go to bigger places.
“He seemed to be in control of his game all day, though. He got off to a good start, which is really important, with a birdie on the second which settled his nerves and then he played within himself all day.
“He hit a beautiful six iron into eight, right over the top of the flag and that was the measure of his confidence today. We were thinking if a couple slide by it could be game on but he just didn’t let the guys in. He had great judgement of speed on the greens all week.”
Nearly 100,000 fans flocked to the Fota Island Resort course in County Cork throughout the event – and on the final day the spectators were urging Graeme McDowell to mount a charge for the title.
Unfortunately for the 2010 US Open winner he was unable to deliver the crowds’ demands – but Murphy says there plenty of positives for McDowell, who finished tied-sixth, can take from the week.
“The crowds have been amazing this week – over 97,000 – and they really wanted to see a Graeme McDowell victory today,” he said.
“It was very frustrating for Graeme, though – and he tried too hard. He was over-reading the greens and then he was getting technical with the stroke. He was trying everything he could to give them what they wanted but some weeks it just isn’t there.
“It’s been a brilliant week for him, however. The big thing for Graeme this week was his ball striking was stunning. He’s had a bad week on the greens but that’s not an issue; he’s a great putter and always has been, it’s just an off week. But to find his ball-striking at this time of year is huge and all bodes well for September at Gleneagles.”
Murphy had plenty of praise for the huge crowds at Fota Island and reckons the event in general demonstrates the strength of Irish golf.
“They’re great fans,” he said. “There are so many weeks when you’re not playing in front of a lot of people that it’s exciting for the players to play in front of this crowd.
“It was a great advertisement for Irish golf, the Irish Open and for 97,000 people to come out to watch it’s been a great week.”