There have been a lot of first-time winners on the PGA Tour this year, but now that Hideki Matsuyama has conquered the Memorial Tournament in a playoff win over Kevin Na, experts expect to see him on top of the leaderboard many times in the future. Matsuyama, a 22-year-old from Japan, made the least amount of mistakes on Sunday and wound up the winner after the veterans who were vying for the lead on Sunday faded away one-by-one.
It was so much a war of attrition in the final round at Muirfield Village that Na, who would shoot 64 and finish two hours ahead of the final group with a total of 13-under, was advised not to go anywhere. Na waited happily by as players like Masters Champion Bubba Watson and World No. 1 Adam Scott faded away down the stretch.
At 15-under and almost assured of at least a spot in a playoff, Watson mysteriously pull-hooked a drive out of bounds on the par-5 15th hole as he was trying to fade it over the trees on the right side of the fairway. Bubba would drop to 12-under and fail to make birdie on any of the final three holes. Scott got to 14-under after 11 holes, only to double bogey the par-3 12th. He got one shot back with birdie at the 13th but sealed his fate with three straight bogeys in the next three holes.
Matsuyama was no picture of consistency himself. In the driver’s seat at 15-under with only three holes to play, a tee-shot into the water led to a double bogey at No. 16. A bad approach shot on 17 then led to a bogey, dropping him a shot behind Na as he came to the 18th tee. A gutsy approach to the final green to within five feet, however, got him to 13-under to force the sudden-death playoff.
The bungling did not let up in the extra hole. Hitting 3-wood because the head of his driver came off on his last hole of regulation, Matsuyama hit his drive into a bunker on the right side of the hole, behind a tree. Na did him one better—or worse—by hooking his drive into the creek on the left side. After taking a drop, Na’s third shot missed the green to the right while Matsuyama, needing to hook his shot around the tree, got too much right-to-left on it and short-sided himself to the left. Both players put their next shots onto the green, with Matsuyama sinking his putt to finally earn the winner’s handshake from tournament host, Jack Nicklaus.
After the tournament, Nicklaus was one of many who was impressed with the ability of the young Japanese golfer. The “Golden Bear” said he thought that golf fans have “just seen the start of what’s going to be truly one of your world’s great players” over the next several years.
Stacy Lewis is new World No. 1 – Stacy Lewis shot 67 in the final round to win the ShopRite LPGA Classic in Galloway Township, NJ on Sunday. In doing so, she became the new World No. 1 in Women’s Golf. She takes over for South Korea’s Inbee Park, who had held the position for 59 straight weeks. Lewis had held the No. 1 ranking for four weeks before Park took over the top spot last year. Lewis’ winning total was 16-under par.
Christina Kim continues to improve her standing in the LPGA, firing 72 in the final round to finish second at 10-under. Jennifer Johnson, Haeji Kang, Anna Nordqvist and Gerina Pillar tied for third at 9-under.
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Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky