Torn between pain and passion, Matsuyama is Asia’s crowning glory

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Hideki Matsuyama - TheGolfingHub
Hideki Matsuyama started the final round six shots off the lead but put together one of the greatest rounds witnessed at iconic Riviera Country Club. Photo: Getty Images

Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama secured an historic three-stroke victory at The Genesis Invitational on Sunday to become the leading Asian golfer with the most PGA TOUR titles with an unprecedented nine career wins.

 

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The 31-year-old started the final round some six shots off the lead but put together one of the greatest rounds witnessed at iconic Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles with a sensational 9-under 62 to win comfortably from Will Zalatoris (69) and Luke List (68). Overnight leader Patrick Cantlay finished tied fourth after a 72.

Matsuyama’s nine-birdie round for an unblemished card was the lowest final day score in history at Riviera and ended a frustrating two-year title drought. He broke a tie with Korea’s K.J. Choi for most victories by an Asian player.

His only disappointment was not being able to receive The Genesis Invitational trophy from tournament host Tiger Woods, who had to withdraw from the event on Friday due to illness.

 

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“You know, to win in this tournament was one of my goals ever since I became pro. After Tiger being the host, that goal became a lot bigger. A little disappointed I wasn’t able to take a picture with Tiger today,” smiled Matsuyama, who won the Masters Tournament in 2021 to become Japan’s first male Major champion.

Woods did offer his congratulations to the newest PGA TOUR Signature event champion, who also became the second Asian to win The Genesis Invitational following Chinese Taipei’s T.C. Chen in 1987. “Congratulations to @hidekiofficial_ on an incredible win at @thegenesisinv. I was watching all day and seeing a record breaking 62 and coming from six shots back is truly special,” the American legend posted on X (formerly Twitter).

The stunning come-from-behind victory was pure delight for Matsuyama, whose last success came at the 2022 Sony Open in Hawaii. He has also not posted a top-10 since last year’s PLAYERS Championship due largely to a persistent neck injury but in the final round, he produced some exquisite shot-making to charge to a long-awaited victory.

 

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“Reaching nine wins was one of my big goals, passing K.J. Choi. After my eighth win, I’ve been struggling with my back (neck) injury. There were a lot of times where I felt, you know, I was never going to win again. I struggled reaching to top-10, but I’m really happy that I was able to win today,” said Matsuyama, who earned US$4 million and rose to third place in the latest FedExCup standings.

He opened the day with three straight birdies, converting from 18 inches, 22 feet and 18 feet. After making the turn in 32, Matsuyama rode on another hat-trick of birdies from the 10th hole, highlighted by a massive 46-foot birdie putt on the 12th. Then came two of the best shots seen at Riviera, a 6-iron approach into the difficult 15th hole and an exquisite tee shot on par-3 16th hole where both shots stopped inches from the pin for pivotal birdies. He made his ninth birdie of the day on the par-5 17th hole and delivered a fist-pump on the last green after holing out for a 62 and winning 17-under total.

 

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“I wasn’t striking the ball really well but my putting and chipping were working a lot this week, especially the 15th, the second shot was probably one of the best shots I’ve had. It was 184 yards into the wind, I executed perfectly, so really happy with how I struck it,” said Matsuyama, who will also rise from 55th to 20th in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“Ever since the injury, I was worried every week something bad might happen. This week I had no issues, I played without any worries and that really helps. It’s been my neck that’s been hurting. It’s really something that’s been bothering for a long time. Since the start of this year, it’s been getting better, a lot better. It’s stress free when I’m sleeping too, so I think I had this feeling of I can do something special maybe this year.”