Matsuyama cops second straight Phoenix crown

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LOS ANGELES: Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama won his second straight Phoenix Open title on Sunday, and just like last year he needed a fourth playoff hole to do it.

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Matsuyama holed a 12-foot birdie putt at the fourth playoff hole, the par-four 17th at TPC Scottsdale, to edge former US Open champion Webb Simpson.

Simpson’s 20-foot birdie attempt to win at the third playoff hole, the par-four 10th, had stopped one roll of the ball short.

Simpson charged up the leaderboard with a seven-under par 64, with birdies at 17 and 18 giving him the clubhouse lead at 17-under 267.

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan lines up a putt on the 17th green during the third round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale on Sunday in Scottsdale, Arizona. AFP PHOTO

Matsuyama had his chances to seize the win in regulation, but it went to a playoff when his 20-foot putt at the 72nd hole stopped inches short.

He closed with a five-under par 66 to join Simpson on 267, one stroke in front of South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen.

The duo took advantage of the struggles of overnight leader An Byeong-Hun, who started the day with a one-stroke lead over Scotland’s Martin Laird but finished with five bogeys and three birdies in a 73 that left him in sixth place on 270.

Rickie Fowler, bested in a playoff by Matsuyama in Phoenix last year, fired a 65 to share fourth with J.J. Spaun (67) on 269.

World number five Matsuyama notched his fifth victory in his last nine starts worldwide, a stretch that included his triumph in the prestigious World Golf Championships HSBC Champions at Shanghai last October.

“It has been a great run,” Matsuyama said. “I’m going to ride this as long as I can.”

Matsuyama was making his fourth consecutive start in Phoenix and has never finished outside the top five.

He thrives in the rowdy atmosphere of a tournament that attracts mammoth crowds.

Week-long attendance for the tournament this year was estimated at 655,434, by far the most for a golf tournament in history. The previous record of 618,365 was set last year at Phoenix.

But, as in 2016, he had to work on Sunday to pull off the win.

“It was a struggle, especially that playoff, but I’m really happy to win,” he said.

With the victory, Matsuyama moved atop the USPGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings, surpassing Justin Thomas, who missed the cut.

He denied Simpson, the 2012 US Open winner, a first US tour title since 2013.

“To shoot seven-under on Sunday is a great feeling,” Simpson said. “I wish I could have a couple of those putts (in the playoff) back and hit them a little harder.”

AFP

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