10/24/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 10/24/2021 07:48
Hideki Matsuyama made the most of his second opportunity to win in his homeland while still the reigning Masters champion, crediting the Japanese fans for carrying him to victory on a week when his game was not up to his famously high standards.
Matsuyama shot 65 on Sunday, including two eagles, to win the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP by five shots over Brendan Steele and Cameron Tringale. It was Matsuyama's seventh PGA TOUR victory, one shy of K.J. Choi's mark for most by an Asian player, and second of this calendar year. The previous one, of course, was his Masters triumph in April that made him the first Japanese man to win a major.
Matsuyama received a hero's welcome when he arrived in Japan after his win at Augusta National, becoming just the 34th recipient of the Prime Minister's Award. He returned home again in July in a quest to add a gold medal to his green jacket. He finished fourth, however, heartbreakingly missing a putt for the bronze medal before losing in a seven-man playoff.
Still, the 29-year-old is the most successful Japanese player in PGA TOUR history and has inspired the country's passionate fans with his success over the last decade. This time, they returned the favor.
"A factor that was going for me was the fans rooting for me and they were behind me," Matsuyama said after adding another win in Japan to his eight victories on the Japan Tour. The ZOZO moved Matsuyama from 33rd to third in the FedExCup standings.
He arrived in Japan having finished outside the top 50 in the past two PGA TOUR events. Last week, he finished 15 shots behind winner Rory McIlroy at THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT while ranking last in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting. Matsuyama gave his game a failing grade when he spoke to the media on the eve of the ZOZO.
"If my game scored 10 out of 10 at the Masters, now I would say it scores less than 1," he said. "I will be struggling this week, but I am here in Japan so I am motivated to be in contention."
That showed from the start, as Matsuyama opened with a 6-under 64 to sit one off the lead of countryman Hiroshi Iwata. Back-to-back rounds of 68 gave Matsuyama a one-shot lead over Tringale entering the final round.
Matsuyama started the final round with five consecutive pars before an eagle on the par-5 sixth. He bogeyed the eighth hole and Tringale, seeking his first PGA TOUR win after more than 300 starts, seized the lead with birdies at the next two holes. Matsuyama responded with three birdies in the next five holes to take a two-shot lead. Both players bogeyed the par-3 17th, setting the stage for Matsuyama to author an emphatic finish. Matsuyama hit a fairway wood from 241 yards on the par-5 finishing hole before holing the 12-foot eagle putt. Tringale closed with a second consecutive bogey.