Defending champion Graeme McDowell's comeback fell short, while Henrik Stenson rallied from three holes down with success at the World Match Play Championship on Thursday.

McDowell fell to Mikko Ilonen of Finland 2 and 1 in their second pool match.

Ilonen raced to 4 up after 10 holes before McDowell fought back with birdies on 11, 13 and 15 to be 1 down. But Ilonen, the Irish Open champion, birdied the 17th to seal the win.

Stenson, the top seed in the 16-man event, produced a startling finish of eagle-birdie-birdie to overcome Francesco Molinari of Italy 2 and 1. Molinari carded 7 under but Stenson went 8 under over the last nine holes.

Only their pool leader Joost Luiten of the Netherlands, and Victor Dubuisson, remain unbeaten going into the last round of pool play on Friday.