Hideki Matsuyama ends his year on a big roll
It started with a victory at home in the Japan Open. It ended with another trophy in the Bahamas against a short but strong field. Five tournaments. Four victories. The way Hideki Matsuyama is playing, he might wish the Masters started next week. Or maybe not. “I’m kind of glad it’s not,” he said with a broad smile, “because I don’t think I could win next week.” Winning must be exhausting for the 24-year-old Japanese star, and no one has been more proficient at it over the last two months. Even more alarming is that Matsuyama is making it look easy, although getting through the final nine holes at the Hero World Challenge felt as heavy as walking through the beach sand of the Bahamas. Coming off seven-shot victories in the HSBC Champions and the Taiheiyo Masters, he had a seven-shot lead over Henrik Stenson going into the final round at Albany Golf Club. Matsuyama didn’t make another birdie after the ninth hole, and his lead was reduced to two shots with two holes to play when he closed with two pars for a 1-over 73 and a two-shot victory.
“I can’t say that I played well today,” he said. “But I did win Tiger’s tournament, and what a great honor it is.”
Matsuyama said Tiger Woods has been his golfing idol as long as he can remember, and as much as he enjoyed winning, he was just as happy to see Woods back in competition. Woods led the field with 24 birdies, but six double bogeys contributed to a 15th-place finish in the 17-man field.
The first time he heard of Woods was when Matsuyama was 5 and watched video “over and over and over again,” he said - of Woods winning the 1997 Masters. Three years later, Woods won 10 times around the world, including the final three majors in what is considered his best season.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see all those wins because they didn’t have the broadcast in Japan,” Matsuyama said. “But I knew Tiger was winning, and I knew he was very good. And I almost expected him to win every tournament.” Perhaps he is starting to appreciate what it’s like to get on a roll.
“I’m not even close to being mentioned in the same sentence as Tiger,” he said. “But I am working hard, and hopefully, little by little, I’ll get better and better.” Matsuyama isn’t the first player to get on a hot streak. Last year, Jason Day won four out of six tournaments against the strongest competition in the world, including the PGA Championship and a pair of FedEx Cup playoff events.—AP
NASSAU: Hideki Matsuyama, right, of Japan, poses with Tiger Woods and the trophy after winning the Hero World Challenge golf tournament Sunday, in Nassau, Bahamas. — AP