Stunning comeback gives Hideki Matsuyama history at Sony Open in Hawaii
January 16, 2022
By Ben Everill , PGATOUR.COM
Hideki Matsuyama’s amazing 3-wood leads to winning eagle at the Sony Open
HONOLULU – The eagle well and truly landed for Hideki Matsuyama after a scintillating comeback victory at Waialae Country Club in the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Victory for the Masters champion looked near 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-shot buffer at the turn.
Having gone out in 6-under 29, Henley looked set to avenge the three collapses from the last 15 months where he’d thrown away 54-hole leads, only to stand in near disbelief after a 1-over back nine allowed Matsuyama to pounce.
Japan’s greatest golfer needed four back-nine birdies, and to dodge Henley’s 10-foot putt to win the tournament in regulation, to get to sudden death. Then he made Henley’s earlier eagle look second-rate when it really counted.
A towering 276-yard, 3-wood approach into the 18th green during the first playoff hole stopped a few feet from the cup and Henley failed to mount any pressure after driving into a bunker, laying up to the fairway and missing the green with his third.
The 2013 Sony Open champion appeared in shock as he battled away to a bogey before leaving Matsuyama with a tap-in eagle to triumph for the eighth time on the PGA TOUR.
“I feel great. To win here where the first Japanese player in Isao Aoki won on the PGA TOUR is extra special,” Matsuyama said after joining K.J. Choi with the most wins for an Asian player in TOUR history.
“Especially on a course that I haven’t really played that well. It’s a tough golf course for me. I’m extra excited, extra happy because of that.”
Despite playing in the U.S. against an American, Matsuyama was the clear crowd favorite thanks to Honolulu’s strong Asian population. Sony is a very successful Japanese company as well, and the groundswell of support lifted him over the last nine holes. As for the shot that helped send Matsuyama to the FedExCup lead as the first two-time winner of the season?
“It was the perfect number for me for a cut 3-wood, 276 yards left-to-right, follow the wind,” he smiled. “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 everybody started cheering and I knew it was good.”
Henley tried to keep a brave face afterwards despite another crushing loss. The last of his three wins came at the 2017 Valero Texas Open, and he’s now 1-for-6 when holding the 54-hole lead.
“I gave myself a putt on 18 to win the golf tournament … I'm still scratching my head on how I missed that. It was really close to going in. I was close to getting a win,” Henley said.
“It stings. I played some great golf. I feel like I was in it the entire time mentally this time. I didn't have too many mental lapses like I have other tournaments where I've been close to the lead in the last couple years.
“So tough to swallow, but Hideki played great all day and happy for him. Looking back at the start of every week, if you can say you did that despite whatever happened, it's a really good week on the PGA TOUR. I'll take a lot of confidence from that.”
Matsuyama’s confidence couldn’t be any higher. He has now put together 13 straight rounds in the 60s, encompassing two wins (ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP) and jumped to 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking to go with his FedExCup lead.
He posted a career best +7.537 in Strokes Gained: Putting to lead the field and he set personal-best 54-hole (194) and 72-hole scores (257). His 14-under weekend was also a career high. With that 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 whisked off to a hero’s welcome in the clubhouse.