Hideki Matsuyama Produces Masterclass to Win Sony Open
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA overturned a five-shot deficit with just nine holes to play to win the Sony Open in Hawaii after defeating Russell Henley in a playoff.
Victory for The Masters champion looked highly unlikely when Henley struck a glorious approach to the par-five ninth hole to set up a tap-in eagle that took him five ahead. He could not have imagined what was to unfold.
Henley has thrown away three 54-hole leads during the past 15 months but when he played the front nine in 29 it seemed certain that he was about to set the record straight. However, it all came undone once again as he played the back nine in one over par and let Matsuyama back in.
Matsuyama caught Henley thanks to four birdies on the back nine and was also helped when Henley missed a 10-foot putt on the final green that would have given him victory.
And the Japanese golfer really produced the goods on the first playoff hole, the 18th. A towering 276-yard, three-wood approach stopped a few feet from the cup and Henley failed to mount any pressure after driving into a bunker, laying up to the fairway and missing the green with his third.
The 2013 Sony Open champion appeared in shock as he battled away to a bogey before leaving Matsuyama with a tap-in eagle to triumph for the eighth time on the PGA Tour, and his third in less than a year.
“I feel great. To win here where the first Japanese player in Isao Aoki won on the PGA Tour is extra special,” Matsuyama said after joining K.J. Choi with the most wins for an Asian player in Tour history.
“Especially on a course that I haven’t really played that well. It’s a tough golf course for me. I’m extra excited, extra happy because of that.”
Matsuyama was the clear crowd favorite thanks to Honolulu’s huge Asian population. Sony is, of course, a successful Japanese company as well, and the groundswell of support lifted him over the last nine holes.
And what about that shot at the 18th?
“It was the perfect number for me for a cut 3-wood, 276 yards left-to-right, follow the wind,” he said. “I knew the green was soft enough to hold it, and I was able to pull it off. To be honest, I didn’t even see it, but everybody started cheering and I knew it was good.”
Henley tried to keep a brave face afterwards despite another crushing loss. The last of his three wins came at the 2017 Valero Texas Open, and he’s now one-for-six when holding the 54-hole lead.
“I gave myself a putt on 18 to win the golf tournament. I'm still scratching my head on how I missed that. It was really close to going in. I was close to getting a win,” Henley said.
“It stings. I played some great golf. I feel like I was in it the entire time mentally this time. I didn't have too many mental lapses like I have other tournaments where I've been close to the lead in the last couple years.
“So tough to swallow, but Hideki played great all day and happy for him. Looking back at the start of every week, if you can say you did that despite whatever happened, it's a really good week on the PGA Tour. I'll take a lot of confidence from that.”
Matsuyama’s confidence couldn’t be any higher. He has now put together 13 straight rounds in the 60s, encompassing two wins (ZOZO Championship). He has jumped to 10th in the world rankings and leads the FedEx Cup standings.
He posted a career best +7.537 in Strokes Gained: Putting to lead the field and he set personal-best 54-hole (194) and 72-hole scores (257). His 14-under weekend was also a career high.
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