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Hideki Matsuyama triumphs at Phoenix Open
Matsuyama won at the fourth extra play-off hole for the second year running – last year it was Rickie Fowler, this time it was Webb Simpson – as the 24-year-old claimed his fourth win.
It all ended at the driveable 17th as Matsuyama chipped and putted from 40 yards, rolling in from 15 feet for a three, as Simpson left himself a putt after a solid drive but was blocked out by a greenside bunker. He then took three more.
Simpson started the day in 11th and, while he was four under after 14 holes on Sunday, he didn’t look too threatening at 14 under. But he then found three birdies in the last four holes for a 64 and the clubhouse target.
Matsuyama, who shot a blemish-free 66, had a chance to finish things off at the 72nd hole but his putt came up half a roll short.
At the first extra hole both players had putts of around 20 feet, Matsuyama just sliding by while Simpson horribly misjudged the length. At the next the Japanese superstar was bunkered off the tee and then made a 20-yard up-and-down look very straightforward. Simpson was more aggressive with his putt but on they marched to the next, this time the 10th.
Here both players found sand off the tee and this time it was Simpson who came up a small fraction of a roll short of victory. One hole later it was finally concluded with Matsuyama going above Justin Thomas in the FedEx standings.
After nine holes the PGA champion (of Wentworth) Ben An looked to have the tournament in the bag with a three-shot lead. The Korean had got to 18 under but then slipped up at 10 and 11 and signed off with a brace of bogeys for a 73 and sixth place. Playing in the final threeball Martin Laird (73), who was birdie free, and John Peterson (72) both went backwards.
Louis Oosthuizen was third on his own after a closing 65.
“I don’t know if I played that well, but I won. That’s, I guess, the bottom line,” Matsuyama said. “It’s tough to compare how I play and the results. The results have been really good these last few months, and hopefully we can just keep it going.
“It’s very difficult to continue playing golf at a very high level. There is ups and downs, especially when I’m playing bad or having a bad day. What I’m trying to do now is to work hard, correct what I’m doing wrong, and continue on. It’s been a good run. I’m going to ride it as long as I can.”