Red-hot Matsuyama (65) just one off Hero lead


NASSAU, Bahamas – There may not be a hotter player in the world right now than Hideki Matsuyama, and he is showing no signs of slowing down.

Matsuyama broke through for victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China last month, a win that he sandwiched in between victories at the Japan Open and, most recently, the Taiheiyo Masters in Japan. He threw in a runner-up finish at the CIMB Classic for good measure, and suddenly the Japanese phenom has risen to No. 6 in the world.

That strong play continued Thursday at the Hero World Challenge, where Matsuyama opened with a 7-under 65 that left him alone in second place among the 18-man field, one shot behind J.B. Holmes.

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“Front nine I didn’t play real well, but back nine I started making some putts and I’m happy with the round,” Matsuyama said.

Matsuyama’s lone blemish came at the par-3 eighth hole where he made a double bogey, but he rallied with four birdies and an eagle over his final seven holes to post an inward 30.

Already with PGA Tour victories in three straight seasons, Matsuyama hopes this week will end with his fourth worldwide win in his last five starts as he looks to build toward the biggest element currently missing from his resume: a major championship.

“I have a lot to work on in order to win a major, but number one is probably putting,” Matsuyama said. “All I can do now is just work on my stroke, and hopefully that will see me through.”