Golf: Matsuyama's title again at the death

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan posing with the trophy after winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open on the fourth playoff hole at TPC Scottsdale on Feb 5, 2017.
Hideki Matsuyama of Japan posing with the trophy after winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open on the fourth playoff hole at TPC Scottsdale on Feb 5, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES • Japan's red-hot Hideki Matsuyama maintained his sizzling run by retaining his Phoenix Open title with a gripping play-off victory over Webb Simpson on Sunday.

He clinched his fifth win in nine starts worldwide by sinking a 10-foot birdie putt on the fourth play-off hole, which Simpson could only par. The driveable 332-yard, par-four 17th was the same hole where he edged out another American Rickie Fowler a year ago.

The duo had finished the 72 regulation holes at the TPC Scottsdale in Arizona on 17-under 267, with Matsuyama narrowly missing a birdie putt at the last to card a five-under 66 and Simpson closing with a birdie-birdie finish for a best-of-the-day 64.

It was Matsuyama's fourth PGA Tour victory, with Shigeki Maruyama (three) the only other Japanese player with multiple wins on the American circuit.

"It was a struggle, especially that play-off, but I am really happy to win," the 24-year-old, told CBS Sports via an interpreter after becoming the first back-to-back winner of the tournament since Johnny Miller in 1974-75.

  • 56%

  • Hideki Matsuyama's high win rate - five in nine tournaments.

He had several opportunities over the closing stretch to seal victory in regulation play, but narrowly missed birdie putts from 15, nine and 19 feet at the 16th, 17th and the last hole.

Asked how he stayed patient after those squandered chances, he replied: "I just had faith and belief that there was going to be a chance to win it and, luckily, I made it."

Matsuyama, who remains at No. 5 in the world rankings, began his hot streak by winning the Japan Open in October. He became the first Asian to win a World Golf Championship event, the HSBC Champions in China, before claiming the Taiheiyo Masters and Tiger Woods' Hero World Challenge.

Simpson was disappointed to lose the play-off but said he was happy to find some form.

"It's disappointing, just the way I finished (in regulation) birdie-birdie, to not come out on top, but it's been a while since I've been in contention," said the 2012 US Open champion, who parred all four of the extra holes.

"I think it was at Colonial back in May. I am thrilled to death with the state of my game."

South African Louis Oosthuizen (65) finished third, one stroke behind, while South Korean An Byeong Hun, who had been three strokes clear with nine holes to play, ran up four bogeys after the turn for a 73 and sixth place, three shots off the pace.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2017, with the headline 'Matsuyama's title again at the death'. Print Edition | Subscribe