Stenson and Ilonen in all-Nordic Match Play final

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 19, 2014 9:19 AM

By Tony Jimenez

ASH England (Reuters) - Henrik Stenson holed a 25-foot birdie putt at the last to beat South African George Coetzee by one hole and set up an all-Nordic final at the Volvo World Match Play Championship on Sunday.

The world number five next takes on Mikko Ilonen for the first prize of 650,000 euros ($829,205) after the Finn ended the hopes of Dutchman Joost Luiten 2 & 1.

Stenson, attempting to become the first Swedish winner in the 50-year history of the tournament, made a poor start against Coetzee after dunking his approach shot into the lake that guards the front of the opening green at the London Club in Kent.

The South African, the lowest-ranked player in the field at number 89, birdied the first two holes to go two up but the European Ryder Cup stalwart fought his way back to all square with birdies at the fourth and eighth.

Coetzee went one up with a birdie at the 14th but Stenson's class then came to the fore as he rolled in a 25-foot eagle putt at the 15th and sank another long-range effort on the par-five 18th to go ahead for the first time.

Stenson was six-under for his round while Coetzee, a late replacement this week for the injured Dane Thomas Bjorn, was four-under.

"It was a tough day out there," the Swede told reporters. "I didn't play my best and the conditions were breezy.

"There were definitely some nerves over that last putt and I was just glad to see it go in."

The other semi-final was a drab affair by comparison with Ilonen and Luiten combining for only five birdies in 17 holes.

The well suddenly ran dry for the Dutchman who only managed to beat par at the long 13th on Sunday, having gone into the contest possessing a 100 percent record from his four previous matches and a staggering tally of 27 birdies and one eagle.

Ilonen put paid to Luiten's challenge with birdies at the 15th and 17th, finishing off his opponent by holing from 18 feet.

"It was an early start today, the first early start of the week," said the Finn in reference to their 0805 teeoff time.

"I think we were both still sleeping when we started. There weren't many birdies out there...and I will need a lot more this afternoon."

($1 = 0.7839 euro)

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)