It took a thrilling finish, but Hideki Matsuyama successfully defended his Waste Management Phoenix Open title over the weekend. He defeated Webb Simpson on the fourth playoff hole of the TPC Scottsdale course.
It was almost groundhog day with Matsuyama winning the tournament on the same hole where he beat Rickie Fowler last year. He finished regulation with a 5-under 66 to tie Simpson who finished with a 17-under 267.
Matsuyama could have won in regulation, but his 20-foot putt for birdie came up just short of the cup. Simpson meanwhile, had his best round of Sunday by birdying three of the final four holes. Then came the playoff where Matsuyama closed out Webb with a birdie putt from 10 feet away on the 17th, a short par-4.
If you want to talk about progress, Matsuyama has won the Phoenix Open the last two years after finishing fourth in 2014 and second in 2015. This year’s victory came in front of more than 58,000 fans on Sunday, breaking the previous attendance record for the week with 655,434 people. Matsuyama certainly took notice:
Playing in front of the number of fans and gallery this past week, great motivation. I just try to have fun with it, and at the same time, keep my focus.”
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) February 7, 2017
Matsuyama has now finished on top twice this season on the PGA Tour. He’s riding a rather impressive string of five victories in worldwide events over the last three and a half months.
“It’s been a good run. I’m going to ride it as long as I can.”
By defending his Phoenix Open title, Matsuyama became the sixth successful player to do so. He joins a distinguished group of: Ben Hogan, Jimmy Demaret, Lloyd Mangrum, Arnold Palmer, and Johnny Miller.
To add a little bit more icing on top, Matsuyama also stands alone as the winningest Japanese player, breaking the tie he had with Shigeki Maruyama. He also currently ranks 5th overall in the world (as of Feb. 5, 2017).