Hideki Matsuyama became the first Asian player to win a World Golf Championships event after outclassing a star-studded field with a final day six-under-par 66 to win the US$9.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions.
The Japanese star’s winning total of 23-under 265 also meant a second victory in three weeks, capping an amazing run which included a win at the Japan Open and a runner-up finish in Malaysia last week.
Olympic silver medallist Henrik Stenson carded his week’s lowest round of 65 to finish in a tie for second with American Daniel Berger while Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy closed with a 66 to share fourth place with Bill Haas of the United States.
Matsuyama burst out of the blocks in the final round with an opening-hole birdie at the Sheshan International Golf Club, designed by Nelson & Haworth Golf Course Architects, an Associate Business Member of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
He followed that up with further gains on holes five and seven before another splendid birdie blitz from the 13th to 15th hole confirmed his place in the annals of golfing history.
“This is a great victory, not only for me but also for Japan as it will encourage others to play golf,” said Matsuyama, who became the first player from his country since Jumbo Ozaki to break into the top-10 on the Official World Golf Ranking.
“I putted really well these last three weeks and that’s probably the difference. I did play well today. I hit the ball a lot better. But putting was the difference this week,” added Matsuyama.
Stenson saved his best for last when he returned with a flawless 65. It was the first time he kept the bogeys off his card for the week.
“It was a sweet putt to make on the last. I probably felt like I was playing better on the front nine yesterday than what I did today. But today I kept it going all the way to the end.
“There was not a bogey on the scorecard. So a nice way to finish with a bogey-free 65,” said the Open champion.
McIlroy tipped his cap to Matsuyama, who at 24 years and 248 days became the youngest player to win the WGC-HSBC Champions, beating the previous record of Martin Kaymer, who was 26 years and 313 days in 2011.
“I think Hideki has played much superior golf than the rest of the field this week. You know, he’s going to be a deserved champion, that’s for sure,” said McIlroy.