World Match Play: Henrik Stenson to face Mikko Ilonen in final

Henrik Stenson celebrates victory over George Coetzee
Stenson had five birdies and an eagle against Coetzee

Top seed Henrik Stenson finished strongly to beat George Coetzee and reach the final of the World Match Play Championship at the London Golf Club.

Stenson, 35, was never ahead until he snatched victory with a birdie at 18.

South African Coetzee won the first two holes with birdies, but his Swedish opponent squared a fluctuating encounter with an eagle at the 15th.

He next meets world number 52 Mikko Ilonen, who ended Joost Luiten's 100% run in the tournament with a 2&1 win.

In fresh, breezy conditions on the Kent course, Stenson had erased his early deficit by the eighth hole courtesy of birdies at the first two par-threes.

But world number 89 Coetzee, who entered the tournament in place of the injured Thomas Bjorn, led three further times before Stenson sank a 20-foot putt for a three to win the 555-yard 15th.

At the last, Coetzee's putt from off the green went millimetres wide of the cup, and Stenson's effort from just on the putting surface wriggled into the hole.

"I had to dig deep, no question about it," said the Swede. "I didn't play my best and it wasn't the most well played match of the week.

Mikko Ilonen
Ilonen won his match at the 17th with a birdie, his fifth of the day

"I came here with no expectations and played much better than expected given two weeks with no golf."

Ilonen, 34, was two ahead after seven holes but three birdies saw Dutchman Luiten, the only player to win all three of his group matches, move one up after 13.

However Ilonen squared the match at the next with a birdie and then managed another at the par-five 15th.

The Finn, who won the Irish Open in June, sealed the match with another long birdie putt at the 17th.

"That could have gone either way," Ilonen said. "We didn't play our best, I think with the early tee time we were still asleep."

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