Matsuyama continues hot streak at Waste Management
February 05, 2017
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Hideki Matsuyama wins back-to-back at Waste Management
SCOTTSDALE – Notes and observations from Sunday’s final round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where Hideki Matsuyama and Webb Simpson put their Super Bowl plans on hold to battle it out in a playoff before Matsuyama defended his title. For more from TPC Scottsdale, check out the Daily Wrap-up.
With his dramatic title defense Hideki Matsuyama stormed back into the FedExCup lead, jumping early season rival Justin Thomas.
Matsuyama now has five wins in his last nine worldwide starts and with a fourth PGA TOUR win has more TOUR wins then any player born in Japan.
He moves to 1,697 FedExCup points to be in front of Thomas’ 1,614. Pat Perez is next best, way back at 858 points.
The scariest part for the 24-year-old’s competitors is Matsuyama claimed he didn’t play near his best in Phoenix.
“I don't know if I played that well, but I won. That's, I guess, the bottom line,” he said through his interpreter.
“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.”
Matsuyama has often humbly rebuked claims he is the best ever player to come out of Japan, giving kudos to the likes of Jumbo Ozaki, Shigeki Maruyama and Isao Aoki.
Maruyama held the Japanese born record of three PGA TOUR wins prior to Matsuyama’s run.
Ozaki had an incredible 94 Japan Golf Tour wins and three top-10s in majors but failed to win on the PGA TOUR.
Matsuyama continues to appear destined to trump them all, particularly as he trends towards being the first major winner from his country.
He now must keep the roll going through the Genesis Open in Los Angeles, the World Golf Championships – Mexico Championship, the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard and the World Golf Championships – Dell Technologies Match Play before getting to the Masters.
“It's very difficult to continue playing golf at a very high level,” Matsuyama added.
“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.”
SIMPSON WINDS BACK THE CLOCK
With three birdies in his final four holes of regulation to surge to the lead Webb Simpson seemed to have finally awoken the same beast who won four times on the PGA TOUR in under three years between 2011-2013.
The 2012 U.S. Open champion has found things tough of late, especially with the ban on anchored putting taking away his confidence on the greens.
With just two top-10s in 20 starts last season and an uninspiring start to 2016-17 Simpson admitted he walked away from his previous start in the CareerBuilder Challenge (T66) with plenty of doubts.
“Two weeks ago I was pretty lost,” Simpson admitted.
“I went and saw Billy Harmon, and he really helped me out. I started hitting it better. (And I feel like I have been putting pretty well for a few months now. So I showed up here, little more confident.”
A first round 67 was followed by an average 71 forcing more adjustments with the help of long-time caddie Paul Tesori.
He noticed Simpson was swaying off the ball a little and his weight shift in the backswing was off. So they set to work. And the result was a 65-64 weekend.
“That’s all we do is kind of fine-tune everything. And came out this weekend and I hit it great.
“We just hit only 30 balls probably Friday. I came out Saturday, good warmup and felt really good all day.
“Sometimes in this game it's a guessing game what you're doing wrong. Sometimes you know, and thankfully on Friday he knew what was going on.
“So to shoot 7-under on Sunday, birdieing 17 and 18 is a great feeling, knowing I had to do it.”
Perhaps the cruelest part of the playoff loss for Simpson was the fact he had putted very well in regulation over four days, but in the playoff he was unable to make chances for birdie on four occasions.
He needed just 27 putts in his two weekend rounds and ranked 18th for the week in Strokes Gained: Putting. He was 177th and 174th in the stat over the last two seasons.
“I talked to Bernhard Langer on the phone a few months ago, and his advice was just be creative, try a couple different things, try to get relaxed and comfortable,” Simpson revealed.
“I think in the past couple years I just hadn't done a good job of getting relaxed and comfortable. I fidgeted here and there and finally found something I felt comfortable with. It seems to be working the last few tournaments.
“Putting has always kind of been my thing. If I putt well, I seem to play well.
“I feel like if any change has happened mentally with my putting, it's been that I have just tried to simplify it, don't take too much time.
“I'm thankful that I made some putts (this week) and had a chance to win the golf tournament.”
CALL OF THE DAY
LOUIS LOVES IT LOUD
A first trip to the Waste Management Phoenix Open can be daunting for some. But Louis Oosthuizen showed no such nerves amongst a record crowd of 655,434.
The 2010 Open Championship winner came just one shot short of the playoff after rounds of 68-67-68-65, clearly embracing the raucous nature of the event.
In the past the South African has started his calendar year predominantly on the European Tour but hopes to put more focus on the PGA TOUR in 2016-17.
Oosthuizen has averaged around 16.5 events on the PGA TOUR over the last six seasons, but hopes to push the mark well over the 20-mark this year.
“The crowds were magnificent this week. It was an unreal feeling once you got on the 16th tee. I think everyone this week probably hit the ball further on that hole with the adrenaline pumping,” Oosthuizen said.
“It's awesome. I think we should have that more, especially with the distance. I think it would be tricky if you're standing with a 4-iron and there's a lot of water and stuff in play.
“Thursday was very calm. Friday was hectic. Saturday was chaos (smiling).”
AUGUSTA CALLING FOR RICKIE
Rickie Fowler fell agonizingly short a year ago in Phoenix, losing in a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama. This time around he was two shots shy of a playoff, notching up his third career finish inside the top four at the event.
While last year he was emotional having let a chance to win slip in front of his grandparents, Fowler remained a little more upbeat.
“We will keep knocking at the door. We will get this one at some point,” he said confidently.
Fowler was already looking forward to a two-week break from competition, with a sneaky trip to Augusta National in between.
He will play an early Masters practice round on Tuesday as he gears his game towards the opening major championship in April.
After missing the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open last week, he was pleased with the bounce back.
“Game is good right now. It was nice this week. Didn't make very many mistakes. Two bogeys over the four days, which is nice,” he added.
“Would have been nice to add more birdies, but it was a good, solid week. I felt like I managed my game well. Definitely looking forward to going from here and on to the coming tournaments.”
SHOT OF THE DAY
Shot of the Day
Hideki Matsuyama's pressure-filled putt is the Shot of the Day
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