Eagle shot wins for Matsuyama
HONOLULU — Five shots behind at the turn, Hideki Matsuyama figured all he could do was keep his head down and try to stay in the game Sunday in the Sony Open.
And when he finally looked up, he couldn’t see one of the best shots of his career.
In a sudden-death playoff with Russell Henley, Matsuyama hit a 3-wood from 276 yards, right into the sun, and had no idea that it settled 3 feet away for eagle on the par-5 18th until he heard an enormous cheer from one of the largest galleries at Waialae.
“To be honest, I didn’t even see it,” Matsuyama said. “But everybody started cheering, and I knew it was good.”
Matsuyama, who made birdie on the 18th in regulation for a 7-under 63, won for the eighth time on the PGA Tour, tying him with K.J. Choi for most tour victories by an Asian-born player.
For the Masters champion, this was the most unlikely.
Henley closed out the front nine with five one-putts in a row, starting with a par save, three straight birdies and a 3-foot eagle to build a five-shot lead.
He never made another birdie the rest of the way. Henley’s biggest moments on the back nine were a pair of tough par saves, and he had a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th in regulation to win. It caught the right edge of the cup, and he had to settle for a 65.
“A little bit sloppy on the back nine but made the par saves I needed to make to put pressure on Hideki. He just played incredible golf today,” Henley said. “I wish I could have put some more pressure on him. Tough to beat 3-wood to 2 feet on 18.”
Matsuyama, who nearly swung out of his shoes with a driver on the 18th in regulation knowing he might need eagle, went with 3-wood in the playoff because Henley already was in a fairway bunker.
That left Matsuyama with another 3-wood, a perfect number for his high fade with a little breeze working from left-to-right off the Pacific Ocean.
He immediately held up his hand to shield the sun and never could find the ball. The roar told him all he needed to know.
Henley, after having to lay up out of the sand, sent his lob wedge from 85 yards bounding over the green and he made bogey. By then, it didn’t matter.