Stunning comeback gives Hideki Matsuyama history at Sony Open Hawaii

HONOLULU — The eagle has well and truly landed for Hideki Matsuyama after a scintillating victory at Waialae Country Club in the Sony Open in Hawaii.


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Victory for the Masters champion looked nigh impossible as Russell Henley produced a stunning approach to the par-5 ninth hole to set up a tap-in eagle that provided a five-stroke buffer on the turn.

After going out at 6-under 29, Henley looked set to avenge the three slumps in the past 15 months where he’d thrown 54-hole runs, only to stand nearly in disbelief after a 1-over nine allowed Matsuyama to jump. .

Japan’s greatest golfer needed four back-nine birdies and ducking Henley’s 10-foot putt to win the tournament in regulation time, only to come to sudden death. Then he made Henley’s eagle look second rate when it really mattered.

A commanding 276-yard, 3-wood approach to the 18th green on the first hole of the playoffs came to a halt just yards from the cut and Henley failed to build the pressure after stepping into a bunker, crashing lengthen to the fairway and miss the green with his third.

The 2013 Sony Open champion appeared in shock as he battled a bogey before leaving Matsuyama with a tap-in eagle to triumph for the eighth time on the PGA TOUR.

“I feel good. To win here where Isao Aoki’s first Japanese player won on the PGA TOUR is very special,” Matsuyama said after joining KJ Choi with the most wins for an Asian player in PGA TOUR history. TOWER.

“Especially on a course that I haven’t played very well. This is a tough golf course for me. I’m very excited, very happy because of that.

Although he played in the United States against an American, Matsuyama was a clear crowd favorite thanks to Honolulu’s large Asian population. Sony is also a very successful Japanese company, and the wave of support has lifted it over the final nine holes. As for the shot that helped Matsuyama take the lead in the FedExCup as the first two-time winner of the season?

“It was the perfect number for me for a cut wood at 3,276 meters from left to right, follow the wind,” he smiles. “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 everyone started clapping and I knew it was good.

Henley tried to keep a brave face afterwards despite another crushing defeat. The last of his three wins came at the 2017 Valero Texas Open, and he is now 1 for 6 when he holds the 54-hole lead.

“I gave myself an 18 putt to win the golf tournament…I’m still scratching my head on how I missed that. It was really about to come in. I was close to winning,” Henley said.

“It stings. I played good golf. I feel like I’m in it all the time mentally this time. I haven’t had too many mental issues like I’ve had other tournaments where I ‘ve been close to the top for the past two years.

“So hard to swallow, but Hideki played great all day and happy for him. Looking at the start of each week, if you can say you made it despite everything that happened, that’s a very good week on the PGA TOUR, I will take a lot of confidence from it.

Matsuyama’s confidence couldn’t be higher. He’s now put together 13 straight rounds in the ’60s, encompassing two victories (ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP) and jumped to 10th in the Official World Golf Rankings to go along with his FedExCup lead.

He posted a career-high +7.537 in Strokes Gained: Putting to lead the field and he set personal bests on 54 holes (194) and 72 holes (257). His Under-14 weekend was also a career high. With this news, it was time to celebrate.

“I’ll have my share of sake tonight and see you all at Torrey Pines in San Diego (for the Farmers Insurance Open),” he smiled before being heroically ushered into the clubhouse.

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