LOS ANGELES: Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama outlasted Rickie Fowler by tapping in for par on the fourth hole of a marathon sudden-death playoff to win the US PGA Tour’s Phoenix Open on Sunday (Monday in Manila).
The 23-year-old Matsuyama grabbed his second US tour title and improved on his runner-up finish to Brooks Koepka at last year’s tournament in the Arizona desert.
In his first appearance in Phoenix two years ago he finished in tie for fourth.
“What a great experience,” said Matsuyama, who is ranked 19th in the world. “Rickie opened the door for me, and I was able to walk through it.”
Matsuyama, whose only other US Tour title came at the 2014 Memorial, had two putts for the win at the fourth playoff hole — the par-four 17th — after Fowler put his shot into the water.
Both Matsuyama and Fowler carded four-under 67 on Sunday to finish regulation tied on 14-under 270.
Matsuyama, who has six wins on the Japan Golf Tour, said it didn’t bother him that most in the massive gallery were cheering for Fowler.
“They were for Rickie, weren’t they? But that gave me the motivation to go out and do it and win,” he said through an interpreter.
America’s Fowler had a two-shot lead on the tee at 17 in regulation, but, as he would later in the playoff, he found the water.
His bogey opened the door for Matsuyama to make birdie and pull even at 13-under as they headed to 18.
Fowler’s tee shot on 18 then skipped through the left side bunker before caroming right and back onto the green.
Matsuyama put his approach on the green to about 20 feet from the cup. Fowler then landed his approach inside Matsuyama’s ball.
Matsuyama made his long birdie putt and Fowler also found some 72nd hole magic to set the stage for what would turn out to be a one-hour marathon playoff.
Harris English shot a five-under 66 to finish alone in third on 272 while third-round leader Danny Lee of New Zealand shot two-over 73 to place fourth on 273.
Lee, who came into Sunday at with a three-shot lead at 13-under par, dropped three strokes on his front nine.
World number four Fowler was coming off a missed cut last weekend after winning the Abu Dhabi Gold Championship.
‘This one hurts’
This would have been Fowler’s fourth PGA Tour win.
“This one hurts,” Fowler said. “I felt like I had it.”
After both players recorded a par on the first playoff hole, the par-four 18th, they went back to the tee box for their third straight attempt at number 18.
Both ended up about 15 feet from the cup after their first two shots. Fowler rolled in his putt and Matsuyama followed up with another perfect strike.
The players then moved to the par-four 10th hole, where Fowler drove his tee shot far right into the rough. He managed to get within 60 feet after his second shot, within 12 after a chip. He rolled it in, forcing a fourth playoff hole.
Crowd favourite Phil Mickelson, who attended Arizona State University and has won the Phoenix title three times, finished even at 71, good for a tie for 11th place at eight-under 276.