The Upshot: Matsuyama clutch in breakthrough
June 01, 2014
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
- Hideki Matsuyama, left, gets congratulated by tournament host Jack Nicklaus after his maiden TOUR triumph. (Lyons/Getty Images)
Just when it looked like Hideki Matsuyama might miss out on his first career victory on the PGA TOUR, the 22-year-old birdied the 18th hole at Muirfield Village for a fourth straight day to shoot a 3-under 69. He then beat Kevin Na on the first hole of sudden death to claim the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance and move to 14th in the FedExCup standings.
Na, who finished off a 64 nearly two hours earlier, pulled his tee shot left on 18 in the playoff and watched it bounce into a creek.
Matsuyama, playing without a driver after the head snapped off when he gently slammed it to the ground following his tee shot on the 72nd hole, drove into a bunker and missed the green left. But he got up-and-down from the rough, flopping his third shot to 10 feet before sinking the par putt for the win.
“I’m really, really happy,” Matsuyama said through his interpreter. “It’s a dream come true to win at Mr. Nicklaus’ course.”
With the win, Matsuyama became the first player to win the Memorial in his debut since the first year of the event in 1976. Though it was his first Memorial, it wasn't the first time the Japanese phenom had seen the host venue.
Last year, Matsuyama teamed with Adam Scott there for the International Team at The Presidents Cup.
“It had a great effect on how I played this week,” Matsuyama said of the time he spent with Scott last fall. “I owe a lot to him.”
Scott helped him again Sunday, hitting his tee shot on the par-3 12th into the water and making double bogey to drop out of a share of the lead.
The world No. 1 also bogeyed the 14th, 15th and 16th on his way to a 71 to tie for fourth.
As for Matsuyama’s driver, he could have replaced it for the playoff if he wanted. Only he didn’t have a spare one in his locker.
“I was really shocked, because I really didn't hit it that hard,” he said. “And I did okay with the 3-wood, so.”
Matsuyama caddie collects his prize -- the pin flag on 18. pic.twitter.com/mMgH21OX9d— PGA TOUR Media (@PGATOURmedia) June 1, 2014
NA’S CONSOLATION: The only consolation for Na? His runner-up finish moved him high enough in the Official World Golf Ranking that he’s now exempt for the U.S. Open. He was planning to play a 36-hole qualifier on Monday.
“That’s a big step, obviously,” he said. “I’m playing well, so obviously I'm having a good year. Hopefully I'll get a W soon.”
As for Pinehurst?
“I think it’s a good golf course for me,” Na said. “It requires a lot of good short game, good chipping around the shaved areas. And I love chipping around the tight lies so I'm looking forward to it.”
SUNDAY PHOTOS: Click below to see our favorite photos from final-round action at Muirfield Village.
WHERE IT WENT WRONG FOR WATSON: Bubba Watson began the day with a one-shot lead and still appeared to be headed toward his third win of the season until a bogey on the 14th hole and a double bogey on the next after hitting his tee shot out of bounds.
“I made one bad decision,” Watson said of his tee shot on 15. “If I hit the 4-wood off the tee instead of the driver on the par 5, we make five and we win by one. But I made a double, so we lost by one.”
A victory would have been Watson’s third of the year -- one better than he has ever had in one season on the PGA TOUR.
Instead, he settled for third -- his best finish at the Memorial Tournament by 20 spots.
“It’s about getting better at the game of golf,” Watson said. “And earlier this year I haven’t played good; I love LA, but I haven’t played good there, and then somehow I won there. And here, I haven’t played good here, but I competed this week and had a chance to win. Obviously it shows my all-around game is getting better, getting more consistent.”
CALL OF THE DAY: Doug Bell of PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.COM calls Hidekis Matsuyama's winning par putt in a playoff with Kevin Na at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance.
WHAT WILL PHIL DO NEXT?
After four days of failing to break 70 -- and the news that FBI agents investigating insider trading approached him this week -- Phil Mickelson can perhaps find some peace and quiet at Pinehurst.
That’s where he’ll spend Monday and Tuesday to prepare for the U.S. Open in two weeks before playing in this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic.
“From a golf standpoint, it wasn't a bad week, as far as I started to hit the ball well,” said Mickelson, who tied for 49th and hasn’t finished in the top 10 on the PGA TOUR this season. “Next week is when I have to put it together and play well. If I can play well, get in contention, it will give me some momentum for the Open. That's what I need to do.”
Mickelson will be trying to win his first U.S. Open and complete the career grand slam at the place where he recorded the first of his six career runner-up finishes in the tournament.
“The bad decision, trying to be a hero. It's not a comfortable tee shot for me because I like to cut it, but I was trying to go over the tree with a cut and I just pulled it.” – Bubba Watson, on his tee shot at the 15th.
“The thing is I hit a bad shot. That's all it is. I had plenty of time to prepare myself, so there’s no excuse there.” -- Kevin Na, on his tee shot on the first playoff hole.
“I’m playing good, I know that. I’m not going to try and go searching for answers over this one.” -- Adam Scott after losing a share of the lead on the back nine and finishing fourth.
“He’s won 18 majors.” -- Hideki Matsuyama, when asked what he knew about tournament host Jack Nicklaus.