Sunday, 06 August 2017
Hideki Matsuyama  (Getty Images)
Hideki Matsuyama (Getty Images)

Hideki Matsuyama produced a sensational closing 61 to win his second World Golf Championships title at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

The World Number Three entered Sunday at Firestone Country Club two shots off the lead but was simply unstoppable, making seven birdies and an eagle to get to 16 under and finish five shots ahead of American Zach Johnson.

Matsuyama won his first European Tour trophy at the WGC-HSBC Champions in October during a run where won four times in five months worldwide and on the evidence of his performance in Akron, more wins cannot be far away.

Johnson fired a 68 to finish at 11 under, one shot clear of countryman Charley Hoffman and three ahead of Belgian Thomas Pieters.

World Number Four Rory McIlroy and Scotsman Russell Knox were then at seven under alongside England's Paul Casey and Canadian Adam Hadwin.

Matsuyama spectacularly chipped in from 58 feet from the back of the second green for an eagle to quickly move into a share of the lead at nine under.

Overnight leader Johnson birdied the same hole but Matsuyama also got to double figures when he holed from three feet on the third.

Hoffman had made birdies on the second and fourth and when he rattled off two in a row from the sixth, he was on the move up the leaderboard.

That did not keep pace with Matsuyama, however, as the Japanese holed from 15 feet on the sixth and nine feet on the ninth to establish a two-shot cushion.

Hoffman then went birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey from the 11th as he failed to gather significant momentum to make a charge.

Johnson had dropped a shot on the third but an impressive lengthy putt from the fringe on the ninth reignited his hopes and when he holed a ten-footer on the 11th, he was the closest challenger.

But Matsuyama was relentless, rolling a 12-footer down the hill on the 13th and recovering from a poor tee-shot on the 16th to put his approach to four feet for a three-shot lead.

He was not done there, sending shots to nine and seven feet on the final two holes for a birdie-birdie-birdie finish and an utterly convincing victory.

"That might be the best round I've ever played," he said. "This is Firestone Country Club, it's such a difficult golf course and to play as well as I did here, I'm thrilled.

"I did hit some good shots but I was nervous all the way around because I really wasn't sure of my swing today.

"All I can do is my best. I know a lot of us have tried from Japan to win Majors. Hopefully some day it will happen. I'd like to win one but I'll get back to work tomorrow morning and hopefully something good will come."

Pieters had taken advantage of the second after starting the day in a share of the lead but bogeyed the eighth and ninth and then parred his way home on a largely frustrating day.

A hot putter had helped McIlroy to birdies on the second, fourth and sixth but bogeys on the ninth, 14th and 15th dropped him back to level par for the day before he birdied the last.

Knox had made hay on the the opening holes all week and when he put his approach on the first to six feet and took advantage of the par five next, he was nine under for those two holes and seven under for the tournament.

An approach to four feet on the eighth and an 18-foot putt on the 11th then kept him in contention but three bogeys in his last four holes saw him fall back.

Rickie Fowler finished at six under, a shot clear of Dane Thorbjørn Olesen, Australian Scott Hend and American Hudson Swafford.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1MATSUYAMA, HidekiJPN18-16
2JOHNSON, ZachUSA18-11
3HOFFMAN, CharleyUSA18-10
4PIETERS, ThomasBEL18-8
T5CASEY, PaulENG18-7

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