Defending champion Graeme McDowell suffered just his third ever defeat in the Volvo World Match Play Championship against an inspired Mikko Ilonen on Thursday.
McDowell reached the quarter-finals of the event on his debut in 2011, the final in 2012 and won the title last year, while his victory over Alexander Levy in the opening group match on Wednesday made for an overall record of 15 wins from 17 matches.
However, the Ryder Cup star found Ilonen in brilliant form at The London Club, the Finn carding seven birdies to hold off a determined McDowell fight back and secure a 2&1 win.
Ilonen was six under par and four up after 10 holes, only for McDowell to birdie the 11th, 13th and 15th to get back to one down with three holes to play and threaten a repeat of his come-from-behind win over Jordan Spieth in the singles at Gleneagles.
Both players then found a greenside bunker at the short 17th but after McDowell missed his birdie attempt from long range, Ilonen holed out birdie to seal the win.
“I’m disappointed to lose today but Mikko was incredibly solid,” McDowell said. “I felt like I played the best golf the first five holes but he putted better and that was the difference.”
With Joost Luiten claiming his second win of the week against Alexander Levy, all four members of the Larson Group can still qualify for the quarter-finals. Luiten and McDowell play each other on Friday, with Levy taking on Ilonen.