Golf: Majors the next target for Japan's Hideki Matsuyama

Japan golfer Hideki Matsuyama hits a shot from a greenside bunker en route to his two-shot victory at the Hero World Challenge, his fourth title in the past two months.
Japan golfer Hideki Matsuyama hits a shot from a greenside bunker en route to his two-shot victory at the Hero World Challenge, his fourth title in the past two months.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NASSAU • Hideki Matsuyama, the hottest golfer in the world over the past two months, clinched his fourth win in five starts with a two-stroke win at the Hero World Challenge on Sunday.

The Japanese star, 24, served notice that he will be a contender to become his country's first male Major golf champion by taking the 18-man invitational event hosted in the Bahamas by Tiger Woods.

"He's going to be one of the top guys to beat for a very long time," said Woods, who made his comeback this week from a 16-month back injury lay-off and finished 15th on four-under 284.

World No. 6 Matsuyama finished on 18-under-par 270 after a closing one-over 73 while Sweden's Henrik Stenson, who trimmed an eight-shot deficit to two, shot a 68 to finish second on 272.

US Open champion Dustin Johnson (71) and fellow Americans Matt Kuchar (70) and Rickie Fowler (69) shared third on 275.

Matsuyama won at the Japan Open and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in October, settling for a runner-up spot in Malaysia in between, and won again last month at the Taiheiyo Masters in Japan.

Could a historic Major be next for Matsuyama? "That's my goal and one of the things I'll be working hard to accomplish," he said.

Matsuyama has five top-10 efforts in 17 Major starts, including a career-best fourth at this year's PGA Championship.

He was fifth in last year's Masters and shared seventh this past April at Augusta National.

"Starting next week, all my focus and preparation will be for the Masters," he said. "Hopefully along the way I can play well on the Tour, but my next goal is the Masters.

"When I putt well, I can contend. These last five events, I've been able to make some putts and the more putts you make, the bigger the hole gets and the confidence grows and that has played a big part in it."

Matsuyama, now with 13 professional wins, also said that there are a lot of great players worldwide, including at least one from Japan - Hall of Famer Jumbo Ozaki, who won 113 titles worldwide.

"I'm not the greatest golfer from Japan," he said. "Jumbo won 100 times. So unless I win 100 times, I wouldn't be greater than Jumbo.

"But hopefully my success will increase the popularity and level of Asian golf."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 06, 2016, with the headline 'Majors the next target for Matsuyama'. Print Edition | Subscribe