Garcia tops Ilonen in playoff for Qatar Masters title

 

The Sports Network

Doha, Qatar (SportsNetwork.com) - Sergio Garcia birdied the third playoff hole Saturday to defeat Mikko Ilonen and win the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

Garcia matched the low round of the day with a 7-under 65 to finish at 16- under-par 272. He collected his 11th career win on the European Tour.

"It feels good," Garcia said about the win.

Ilonen carded a 6-under 66 during his final round at Doha Golf Club to join Garcia atop the leaderboard.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello (69) and Thorbjorn Olesen (68) shared third place at 15- under, while Steve Webster (70), Alejandro Canizares (65), George Coetzee (68) and Thomas Aiken (69) tied for fifth at minus-14.

Magnus A. Carlsson (65) and Dawie Van Der Walt (68) occupied ninth at 13-under 275.

Garcia and Ilonen returned to the 18th hole for the playoff, and both found the green with their second shots. Ilonen's ball settled 30 feet from the hole, while Garcia's rolled to 12 feet.

After Ilonen's eagle putt stopped short and to the left of the cup, Garcia pushed his just past the right side of the hole and the duo returned to the 18th tee for the second extra hole.

Ilonen again found the green with his second on the second playoff about 20 feet from the hole, but Garcia could not repeat his effort from the first playoff, hitting his into a bunker in front of the green.

Garcia, however, blasted out to a foot of the hole and the duo returned to the 18th tee when Ilonen failed to sink his putt.

It was Ilonen who found trouble this time, as his drive sailed into the right rough before he found the same bunker as Garcia hit into on the second playoff.

Ilonen could not repeat Garcia's effort and pitched his about 10 feet past the hole. Ilonen could not convert his return putt, allowing Garcia to 2-putt for birdie and the win.

"The up and down from the bunker in the playoff was key and I'm very happy to be able to win it," said Garcia. "It's been an amazing week already and I was definitely more nervous on my tee shot on the 18th (in regulation) than in the playoff. That's probably why I hit three better tee shots."

Cabrera-Bello and Webster shared the lead entering the day, and Cabrera-Bello opened his round with a 5-foot birdie putt at the first to claim the outright lead at 13-under. Webster answered with a birdie at the second to meet him there.

Ilonen made it a three-way tie for the lead when he followed a birdie at the fourth with a 15-foot birdie putt at the fifth.

He then stuck his tee shot at the par-3 eighth to six feet and knocked in his birdie effort to claim the outright lead.

Cabrera-Bello briefly joined Ilonen at 14-under with a birdie at the seventh before giving that shot right back with a bogey at the eighth.

Garcia, meanwhile, was making a charge up the leaderboard with an outward 33 that included birdies at the first, seventh and ninth. He stayed hot around the turn with a 15-foot birdie putt at the 10th to pull within a shot of the lead, and made it three gains in a row at the 11th to meet Ilonen atop the leaderboard.

Canizares and Olesen would eventually make it a four-way tie for the lead before Garcia chipped in for birdie at the 14th to pull ahead of the pack at 15-under.

Garcia added a little cushion at the par-4 16th, where his drive found the green and he 2-putted for birdie to move two clear of the field.

Ilonen followed with his own 2-putt birdie at the 16th to pull within a shot of the Spaniard, who had a chance to regain his 2-stroke lead at the 18th, but could not convert a birdie putt from about six feet.

"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," said Garcia. "I hit a good putt and unfortunately it didn't break."

That opened the door for Ilonen, who rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt at the last after blasting out of a greenside bunker to finish alongside Garcia at 16-under.

Olesen moved within a shot of the leaders with a birdie at the 16th, but found a bunker with his tee shot at the par-3 17th en route to a bogey.

That mistake would prove costly, as he could not roll in a 15-foot eagle putt at the 18th to miss the playoff by a shot.

Cabrera-Bello also had a chance to make the playoff with an eagle at the 18th, but hit his second shot past the green and could not convert his chip.

NOTES: Garcia improved to 3-4 in playoffs on the European Tour, while Ilonen was playing in his first tour playoff ... Garcia also has eight wins on the PGA Tour ... Garcia's last win on the European Tour came at the 2011 Andalucia Masters. This was his 66th event since that victory ... Garcia is expected to move inside the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings with the win.

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