ASH, England — 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 at the London Club.

It was only McDowell’s third defeat in 18 matches in the event.

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

Ryder Cup-winning hero Jamie Donaldson won 4 and 3 against U.S.-based Jonas Blixt of Sweden, American Patrick Reed, a former University High golfer, won his first match in the event, 2 and 1 over 2006 champion Paul Casey of England, and George Coetzee of South Africa remained in quarterfinal contention by beating 2013 runner-up Thongchai Jaidee 2 and 1.

Stenson, the top seed in the 16-man event, finished 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, not leading the match until his second-to-last birdie on 16.

Pablo Larrazabal holed a chip shot from the rough for birdie at the last hole to defeat Stephen Gallacher 1 up.

Dubuisson was never behind Shane Lowry of Ireland, claiming a 3 and 2 victory .

Luiten was 4 up through 11 holes en route to beating Alexander Levy of France 4 and 3

PGA Tour

Cink, Laird share Las Vegas lead: In Las Vegas, Stewart Cink birdied seven of the final 11 holes Thursday for a 7-under 64 and a share of the first-round lead with Martin Laird in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Cink had a bogey-free round at TPC Summerlin in his first start since dropping out of the FedEx Cup playoffs after the second event. He won the last of his six PGA Tour titles in the 2009 British Open.

Laird also had a bogey-free round. He played the front nine in 5-under 30 and added birdies on Nos. 15 and 18, holing a 50-foot putt on the last.

The Scot won the 2019 event and lost in a playoff in 2010 when Jonathan Byrd made a hole-in-one on the fourth extra hole.

Scotland’s Russell Knox was third at 66.

Jarrod Lyle, Bo Van Pelt, Hideki Matsuyama, Sam Saunders, Brian Stuard and Andrew Svoboda shot 66.

European Tour

Randhawa takes 1-stroke lead: In Hong Kong, Jyoti Randhawa shot a 6-under 64 to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Hong Kong Open on Thursday.

Angelo Que (65) was in second place, one ahead of a group of nine others at 66 that included four-time major champion Ernie Els.

Els, who turns 45 on Friday, was playing in his first tournament during a month-long Asian swing which will also take him to Macau and China.

“I missed three very makeable putts on the back nine and that hurt a little bit,” Els said after carding six birdies and two bogeys.

The Hong Kong Open is sanctioned by both the European Tour and the Asian Tour and is being played for the second time on the European Tour calendar.

Four-time champion Miguel Angel Jimenez (72) struggled with the after-effects of food poisoning. The 50-year-old Spaniard won the Hong Kong Open in 2004, ‘07, ‘12 and ‘13.

“I was cramping badly and was very sick. I had been vomiting and going out all night. I couldn’t even sleep,” said Jimenez, who is bidding to join Tiger Woods, Tom Watson and Bernhard Langer as the only people to have won the same tournament five times.

Que, who is from the Philippines, shot his first bogey-free round of the year.

“I putted like a maniac,” Que said. “My first birdie putt was a 40-footer and after than things just fell into place.”

LPGA

Kang takes FIRST-round lead: In Incheon, South Korea, Haeji Kang shot a 5-under 67 on Thursday to take a two-stroke lead over five players, including three fellow South Koreans, after the first round of the LPGA’s KEB-Hanabank Championship.

Lee Il-hee and defending champion Amy Yang shot 69s along with another South Korean, Mirim Lee. Australian Minjee Lee and Catriona Matthew of Scotland were also tied for second on the Ocean Course at the Sky72 Golf Club.

There were eight golfers tied for seventh with 70s, including No. 4 Suzann Pettersen and American Brittany Lincicome.

Second-ranked Inbee Park, who could move to No. 1 with a win in the absence of top-ranked Stacy Lewis of the United States, was a further shot back with a 71. Park married swing coach Gi Hyeob-nam on Monday in Seoul.

No. 3 Lydia Ko of New Zealand shot 73. Eight of the top 10-ranked players are competing in the South Korean event.

U.S. Women’s Open champion Michelle Wie opened with a 76. She’s making her first start since withdrawing during the first round of the Evian Championship in September.

with a reinjuring a stress fracture in her right hand.

Women’s British Open winner Mo Martin had a 78 in her return from a thumb injury. Fellow American Paula Creamer shot 81.