NASSAU, Bahamas – He may not be willing to admit it, but right now there is probably not a hotter player on the planet than Hideki Matsuyama.
Matsuyama stumbled to a 1-over 73 in the final round of the Hero World Challenge, but after starting the day with a seven-shot cushion, it was enough to earn the 24-year-old a two-shot win over hard-charging Henrik Stenson.
Matsuyama led by eight shots at one point during the final round, but that advantage was trimmed to two after Stenson birdied the 16th hole. Matsuyama maintained that lead heading to the final hole, where his chip from behind the green nestled to within a foot to seal the victory.
For Matsuyama, it’s his fourth win in his last five worldwide starts. That run includes a win at the WGC-HSBC Champions, and his lone blemish in that stretch came at the CIMB Classic, where he finished second to Justin Thomas. A total of 378 players have teed it up against Matsuyama over the last two months, but only Thomas has been able to beat him across 72 holes.
“I can’t say that I played well today, but I did win Tiger’s tournament,” Matsuyama said. “What a great honor that is.”
Matsuyama began this week ranked No. 6 in the world, and he credited his recent success to a putting tip that he received from fellow Japanese pro Hiroshi Iwata. While he bested another elite field that this time included the likes of Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Jordan Spieth, Matsuyama isn’t quite ready to put his name past the few that still rank ahead of his in the Official World Golf Ranking.
“Everyone out here is so good,” Matsuyama said. “I’ve been fortunate to play well these last five weeks, and any other pro, if they get on a run, they’ll probably do the same thing. I feel like there’s a lot of other players that are better than I am.”
With wins in each of the last three PGA Tour seasons, highlighted by his WGC victory this fall in China, Matsuyama is now ready to turn his attention squarely to the biggest element still missing from his resume: a major title.
“Starting next week, all my focus and preparation will be for the Masters,” he said. “Hopefully along the way I can play well on the PGA Tour, but the Masters is my next goal.”