Korhonen makes major stride with thrilling Volvo China Open win

Shenzhen (China) (AFP) –


Mikko Korhonen pipped France's Benjamin Hebert in a nerve-jangling playoff to win the 25th Volvo China Open Sunday and secure his place in this month's US PGA Championship.

The Finn shot a superb six-under par 66 to finish at 20-under par for the tournament alongside overnight leader Hebert, who had a three-under 69 at Genzon Golf Club in Shenzhen.

Korhonen looked icy cool when he sank a treacherous left-to-right downhill 10-footer for a birdie in the playoff, though he admitted his knees were trembling.

"Yeah, there were a few butterflies with that one," Korhonen told AFP after being drenched in celebratory champagne by his fellow Finnish players on the final green. "It wasn't the easiest of putts."

He promised it would be a "good flight" back to Europe on Sunday night after ensuring a place in a major field for just the second time in his career.

"We'll have some celebrations I'm sure," he added.

It was just his second win in a European Tour event after his Shot Clock Masters victory in Austria last year.

The triumph takes him into the world's top 100 and the top 20 on the Race To Dubai standings and means that he will head to Bethpage, New York, for the season's second major in two weeks' time.

- 'Amazing feeling' -

"It's an amazing feeling," he said. "It was my first time in a play-off and I had nothing to lose. It was a battle all day as everyone was making putts and I had to stay patient and do the same."

He had started Sunday three shots behind Hebert along with Spain's Jorge Campillo, and the final three-ball produced a drama filled final-round as the lead changed hands between the trio multiple times.

Hebert was hunting his first European Tour win while Campillo, who triumphed for his maiden victory in Morocco a week ago, was looking to become the first European Tour back-to-back winner since Justin Rose in 2017 at the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open.

"It has been a good week," said Hebert, who has won six times on the Challenge Tour but never on the main European Tour.

"I'm happy finishing second. I missed the wedding of one of my cousins this week so it was very important for me to have a good week."

Campillo started the round in brilliant fashion and three consecutive birdies from the 10th took him into the lead.

But dropped shots at both the 14th and 15th and just missed the 20-foot birdie putt on the final green to make it a three-way playoff as he finished 19-under par.

"It was disappointing. I finished as a champion last week, but I didn't this week," lamented the in-form Spaniard, who will move to second in the Race to Dubai standings after an amazing run of five top-three finishes in his last six events.

"Mikko played unbelievable golf today and it was just a shame I couldn't join the playoff."

Home favourite Li Haotong had a birdie-birdie finish in his 66 to secure solo fourth at 16-under par.

"The game's heading in the right direction here in China," Li told AFP after a record-breaking week that drew huge crowds to see 45 Chinese players in the field and an unprecedented 10, including three amateurs, make the cut.

"It's great to see Kuang Yang, who's only 14, making the cut and it's amazing to see these juniors making Chinese people proud."