Matsuyama storms to WGC victory in Shanghai

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Hideki Matsuyama  AFP PHOTO

Hideki Matsuyama
AFP PHOTO

SHANGHAI: Dominant Hideki Matsuyama made history on Sunday when he became the first player from Asia to win a World Golf Championships.

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The 24-year-old from Japan left a world-class field, including Rory McIlroy and all four 2016 major winners, trailing in his wake as he finished seven strokes clear at the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.

The 24-year-old Japanese player also became the first from the continent to win “Asia’s Major” and he did it in style with a flawless final round of six-under par 66.

Matsuyama was just one shot shy of the record 72-hole score at Sheshan International Golf Club of 24-under par set by current US Open champion Dustin Johnson three years ago.

Matsuyama finished at 23-under par after four stunning rounds of 66, 65, 68 and 66 at the par-72 layout. British Open champions Henrik Stenson and Daniel Berger of the US were tied for second way back at 16-under par.

World number three Rory McIlroy on Sunday carded his second 66 of the week for yet another top-five finish as he shared fourth place on 15-under par with Bill Haas.

Matsuyama, whose total of 29 birdies for the week was just three short of the all-time US PGA Tour record of 32, remarkably did not card a bogey after the ninth hole of his second round on Friday.

The in-form player is set to rise to as high as number six in the world following his victory for which he wins $1.62 million.

It caps a remarkable run in which Matsuyama has won the Japan Open, finished runner-up in the PGA Tour’s CIMB Classic in Malaysia and won the WGC-HSBC Champions in consecutive weeks.

Matsuyama settled any nerves straight away with a birdie at the first to open a four-shot cushion over defending champion Russell Knox, who eventually fell away with a two-over 74.

“I was really nervous at the start of the day, but I was able to birdie hole number one,” said Matsuyama.

“That kind of got myself into the rhythm of the day, and after that, it was smooth sailing.”

The relentless Matsuyama holed a crucial par putt at the fourth and stood on the eighth tee four shots clear of his two playing partners Knox and Daniel Berger of the US.

The young Japanese found thick rough off the tee and then carved a terrible second into more trouble.

With Berger on the green in three it looked as if his lead would be cut to two shots.

But Matsuyama controlled his fourth shot pitch from more rough to 10 feet and then calmly rolled in to save par and stay four strokes up after Berger missed his 25-foot birdie attempt.

“Number eight was a very important hole for me,” Matsuyama said. “I didn’t hit a very good second shot. But I was able to knock it on and make my par putt. From then on, the round became a lot easier.”

AFP

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