Hideki Mat­suyama ends his year on a big roll

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

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

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