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Hole-out caps remarkable Matsuyama run

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DUBLIN, Ohio – Even for a former champion, Hideki Matsuyama’s torching of the closing stretch at Muirfield Village was remarkable.

Four years after he won the Memorial Tournament in a playoff, Matsuyama is again atop the leaderboard, sharing top honors with Abraham Ancer and Joaquin Niemann after a 7-under 65. The Japanese phenom feasted on some of the most difficult on the back nine, rebounding from bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11 to play the five-hole stretch from Nos. 13-17 in 6 under.

That torrid run was capped with a rare eagle on the par-4 17th, where Matsuyama’s gap wedge from 137 bounced just past the hole and spun in.

Matsuyama missed time earlier this season with a wrist injury, and he’s still in search of his first top-10 finish since returning at Bay Hill. But he finished T-16 two weeks ago at the AT&T Byron Nelson, his best result since January, and made further progress Thursday on a familiar layout.

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“I had some good rounds there at Nelson and had some momentum coming into my off week. Had a real good week of practice, came here and I couldn’t find it again,” Matsuyama said via a translator. “But this morning I had a good warm-up session, and as the round went along I played better and better.”

Matsuyama entered this week ranked No. 10 in the world, his lowest ranking since October 2016. He’s no stranger to early-round success at Muirfield Village, having opened with a 64 in 2015 to share the lead as the tournament’s defending champion.

But that proved to be his last sub-70 round of the week, as he faded to a tie for fifth, and now hopes to do a little bit better from the same position.

“I played well then, I played well today,” Matsuyama said. “Hopefully we can have a little different outcome at the end of the tournament.”