Willett takes third and a place in Open

Danny Willett during day four of the 2014 Irish Open at Fota Island Resort, County Cork
Danny Willett during day four of the 2014 Irish Open at Fota Island Resort, County Cork
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The challenge of catching up with Mikko Ilonen proved just too much for Danny Willett in Cork yesterday, but the Sheffield golfer can take plenty of positives from the weekend at Fota Island.

Willett had fired himself into contention on the final day following a course-record 63 on Saturday which included his second hole-in-one in three months.

The 26 year old’s previous ace earnt him a V40 Cross Country from the tournament sponsors in the final round of the Volvo China Open at the end of April.

And although the 26-year-old did not win anything for his ‘slam dunk’ effort on the seventh hole at Fota Island - a £65,000 BMW 640 Gran Coupe was on offer on the 13th - it sparked a brilliant round and helped set the clubhouse target of 11 under par.

“We had a perfect number, 168 yards with an eight iron but you never expect it to slam dunk,” Willett said after that round. “That was a bit of a bonus.”

However Ilonen would hang on for a wire-to-wire success, carding a final round of 70 to finish 13 under par.

That put the Finn one shot ahead of Italy’s Edoardo Molinari, with Sweden’s Kristoffer Broberg and English duo Willett and Matthew Baldwin another shot back in third.

And having pocketed 103,333 euro and a place in the Open Championship on July 17 at Hoylake, it turned out to be a fruitful weekend for Willett.

The same could be said for another Sheffield golfer, Matt Fitzpatrick.

The Hallamshire teenager who was the only amateur to make the cut in the US Open last week, finished in a tie for 29th in his first tournament as a professional following a closing 68 and kicked off his earnings with a cheque for 17,500 euro.

Graeme McDowell had pushed into contention on the final day but was left to rue a poor putting performance which meant he recorded just one birdie, the former US Open champion also three-putting the fourth for a par five and the 15th for his solitary bogey.

“Perhaps one of the worst putting weekends of my career when in contention,” McDowell said.

“I let a lot slip away yesterday and continued in the same vein today.

“So I’m kind of focusing on the big picture this week, looking at the summer and looking at the two major championships coming up and Ryder Cups and all kinds of fun things to look forward to. My game is in great shape and there are a lot of positives this week.”