Hideki Matsuyama pulled off a three-wood approach worthy of winning any tournament to break the heart of Russell Henley at the first playoff hole and win the Sony Open in Hawaii.
The reigning Masters champion was at his best over the weekend rounds in Honolulu, moving into position to strike with a Saturday 63 and doubling down on Sunday with another, reeling in Henley who was five strokes ahead taking the turn for home.
The American still had a 10-footer for the win on the 72nd and will have lay awake in bed still wondering how it missed, but with both players tied at 23-under in regulation, Matsuyama found the heart of the fairway at the first extra hole on the Wai’alae course – the par-5 18th – and despite the sun beaming into his eyes, Matsuyama could rely on the roar of a crowd largely in his favour after landing his ball from 276 yards to inside three-feet to set up a winning eagle.
UNREAL SHOT. ?
Hideki delivers a beauty from 277 yards out on the first playoff hole! pic.twitter.com/qT8ByiAVrm
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 17, 2022
“It was a perfect number for me for a cut 3-wood, 276 yards left to right, follow wind,” Matsuyama said, trusting his process having seen none of the shot.
“I knew the green was soft enough to hold it, and I was able to pull it off.”
With a huge population of Japanese-Americans living on the islands, Matsuyama, just like he did on home soil at the ZOZO, was thrilled to be able to give the people what they wanted.
“I’m really happy. This is the first tournament that a Japanese player won on the PGA Tour when Isao Aoki won here,” Matsuyama said. “To follow him up, I’m over the moon.”
And as for how the new world number 10 will celebrate his latest victory?
“I’ll have my share of sake tonight and we’ll see you all in San Diego at Torrey Pines!”
It goes to show how tough the PGA Tour is when you go into the final round holding a two-shot lead, shoot 65 and still manage to lose but that’s the reality for Henley who looked for all the world the winner making the turn for home before playing his inward half in one-over, helpless against the brilliance of Hideki.
“Yeah, I mean, I don’t know how long it will take to get over it,” said Henley.
“I definitely take confidence from the tournament, but it really stings to not come away with the win.
“I gave myself a putt on No. 18 to win the golf tournament. I hit a great putt.
“So 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.
“I’m really still scratching my head on how I missed that. It was really close to going in. I was close to getting a win. So tough to swallow, but Hideki played great all day and happy for him.”
West Waterford’s Seamus Power matched Henley’s 65 for a 19-under tally and a share of third. Now up to 49th in the world rankings having been outside the top-400 this time last year, Power banks $442,500 for his latest showing and will return to action on Thursday at the American Express Championship at La Quinta.