Ilonen knocks off Stenson to win World Match Play

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In the battle for Scandinavia, Mikko Ilonen won three holes around the turn to defeat top-seeded Henrik Stenson, 3 and 1, in Sunday’s scheduled 18-hole final at the Volvo World Match Play Championship.

It was Ilonen’s fifth European Tour title, and the $829,000 first-place prize was nearly double the biggest payday of his career. 

In the morning at London Golf Club, Ilonen knocked off Joost Luiten, who hadn’t lost a match heading into the semifinals. Stenson had reached the finals after draining a long birdie putt on 18 and rallying to defeat George Coetzee.

In the finals, Ilonen won the par-3 eighth with birdie to move 1 up, then won Nos. 11 and 12 with a birdie and par, respectively. Stenson and Ilonen traded holes on 13, 14 and 15 before Ilonen’s conceded birdie on 17 was to enough to close out the match. Ilonen was bogey-free for 17 holes, playing in 5 under.

''While I didn't play so well this morning, I didn't make any mistakes this afternoon against Henrik,'' Ilonen told reporters after the win. ''(I) felt like I had a good chance to beat him and I did.''

Luiten, meanwhile, won the consolation match after defeating Coetzee on the first extra hole.  

Ilonen, 34, won the Irish Open in June but was coming off back-to-back missed cuts at the Dunhill Links and Portugal Masters. He also lost his opening group stage match before cruising to the championship. 

Stenson, No. 5 in the world, is still searching for his first victory since the season-ending DP World Tour Championship last November. 

''I was quite low on energy this afternoon, and I also feel like I have been battling my swing in these windy conditions,'' Stenson said.