We haven't seen a round at the WGC Bridgestone like this since 2014 -- when Sergio Garcia did it, or Tiger Woods in 2013 and 200. Even then, the others scored their record low scores in the second round of play, and it was this year's breathtaking final 18 that gave Hideki Matsuyama the championship and a $1.66 million dollar payday from Firestone South. Matsuyama becomes the first Japanese golfer to take the tournament and sets himself up nicely ahead of the PGA Open next weekend at Quail Hollow. Observers really didn't have a clue as to what was to unfold watching Matsuyama, who is a conditioned believer in practice and often takes time on the driving range before and after his rounds. Sunday's practice had him hitting balls all over the place and not showing the placement and discipline he showed during the round. He finished 16 under for the event after going five under on Sunday with a perfect round that included no bogeys, one eagle and seven birdies including the final three holes.
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Is he the best?
(PGA Tour) Final-Round Leaderboard
Hideki Matsuyama 69-67-67-61—264 (-16)
Zach Johnson 69-67-65-68—269 (-11)
Charley Hoffman 68-69-67-66—270 (-10)
Thomas Pieters 65-70-66-71—272 (-8)
Paul Casey 70-69-67-67—273 (-7)
Rory McIlroy 67-69-68-69—273 (-7)
Russell Knox 66-71-68-68—273 (-7)
Adam Hadwin 68-69-67-69—273 (-7)
Nine countries are represented by the top 12 players on the leaderboard.
In his 100th start on the PGA TOUR Japan's Hideki Matsuyama posted a 9-under 61 in the final round at Firestone CC to secure his fifth TOUR title, and third this season. Matsuyama's round included an eagle at the par-5 second hole, along with seven birdies, with three consecutive birdies to close the round and win the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational by five strokes over Zach Johnson. Charley Hoffman, who lost a playoff at last week's RBC Canadian Open, finished third at 10-under 270. Matsuyama wins his fifth PGA TOUR event at the age of 25 years, 5 months, 12 days. He earns the 25th win by a player in his 20s on TOUR this season.
Matsuyama's PGA TOUR victories:
2014 the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance
2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open
2017 World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open
2017 World Golf championships-Bridgestone Invitational
With the win, Matsuyama, who entered this week No. 3 in the FedExCup standings, regained the No. 1 position which he had held for a total of 10 weeks earlier this season. He now leads Jordan Spieth by 114 points with 2,754 points. Matsuyama also returns to the top of the PGA TOUR Money List this season. Matsuyama's 9-under 61 is his career low round on the PGA TOUR, bettering his previous-best 63 by two strokes (63/R3/2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, 63/R2/2015 BMW Championship). Matsuyama's 9-under 61 is the lowest final-round score, by three strokes, in any World Golf Championships event. The previous low finish by a winner at the Bridgestone Invitational was 64 (-6) by Hunter Mahan (2010) Keegan Bradley (2012). Matsuyama's 61 matched the 18-hole record at the Bridgestone Invitational (Tiger Woods/R2/2000, Tiger Woods/R2/2013, Sergio Garcia/R2/2014).
Matsuyama owns three wins and three runner-up finishes on the PGA TOUR this season (1/World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, 1/Waste Management Phoenix Open, 1/WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, 2/CIMB Classic, 2/SBS Tournament of Champions, T2/U.S. Open). Matsuyama now has six victories in his last 20 starts worldwide.
Matsuyama is now one of 12 players with multiple victories in World Golf Championships and joins Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson with more than one WGC win in the same season;
Player Country WGC Wins
Tiger Woods USA 18
Dustin Johnson USA 5
Geoff Ogilvy AUS 3
Darren Clarke NIR 2
Jason Day AUS 2
Ernie Els RSA 2
Hunter Mahan USA 2
Rory McIlroy NIR 2
Phil Mickelson USA 2
Ian Poulter ENG 2
Adam Scott AUS 2
Hideki Matsuyama JPN 2
With the win, Matsuyama is the first player from Japan to win the Bridgestone Invitational and the seventh international winner of the Bridgestone Invitational (Craig Parry/Australia/2002, Darren Clarke/Northern Ireland/2003, Vijay Singh/Fiji/2008, Adam Scott/Australia/2011, Rory McIlroy/Northern Ireland/2014, Shane Lowry/Ireland/2015, Hideki Matsuyama/Japan/2017). With the victory, Matsuyama joined Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh with the Ohio double with victories at both the Memorial Tournament in Dublin and Bridgestone Invitational in Akron. Along with the Bridgestone Invitational and HSBC Champions victories this season, Matsuyama's only other top-10 finish in 17 WGC appearances was a T9 at the 2015 Dell Technologies Match Play.
The top three players in the Official World Golf Ranking did not change this week – No. 1 Dustin Johnson, No. 2 Jordan Spieth and No. 3 Hideki Matsuyama. It's worth noting heading into the PGA Championship next week, Matsuyama has recorded top-15 results at three major championships this season (T11/Masters, T2/U.S. Open, T14/The Open). This week marked Matsuyama's fifth start at Firestone CC. A T12 in 2014 was his best result in four previous appearances.
Matsuyama, with five victories, extends his record as the Japanese player with the most PGA TOUR wins. Japanese players to win on the PGA TOUR: Isao Aoki (1983 Sony Open in Hawaii), Shigeki Maruyama (2001 Greater Milwaukee Open, 2002 AT&T Byron Nelson, 2003 Wyndham Championship), Ryuji Imada (2008 AT&T Classic), Hideki Matsuyama (2014 Memorial Tournament, 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open, 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions, 2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open, 2017 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational).
Hideki Matsuyama's Statistics
R1 5 of 14 fairways, 11 of 18 greens, 3 of 7 scrambling, 27 putts
R2 9 of 14 fairways, 15 of 18 greens, 3 of 3 scrambling, 30 putts
R3 8 of 14 fairways, 12 of 18 greens, 4 of 6 scrambling, 28 putts
R4 7 of 14 fairways, 16 of 18 greens, 2 of 2 scrambling, 25 putts
Zach Johnson headed into the final round with a share of the 54-hole lead and failed to secure the win despite a 2-under 68 which included just one bogey (No. 3). Johnson hit 14 of 18 greens in the final round. This was the fifth time that Johnson had led or shared the lead on the PGA TOUR through 54 holes. He had converted three of the previous four 54-hole leads into victories. The co-lead was Johnson's first time ever leading through any single round of a World Golf Championships event.
Zach Johnson 54-hole leads on the PGA TOUR – Tournament Lead Finish
2004 Bellsouth Classic 2 strokes 1st
2009 Sony Open 1 stroke 1st
2009 Quail Hollow Championship 2 strokes T11
2009 Valero Texas Open 2 strokes 1st
2017 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Tied 2nd
The third-round leader has only won three of the last 11 times at the Bridgestone Invitational. This season on the PGA TOUR the 54-hole leader has gone on to win 12 of 39 events, most recently Jordan Spieth at The Open Championship. Johnson was seeking his first World Golf Championships title in his 41st appearance in World Golf Championships events. The runner-up finish at the Bridgestone Invitational is his 11th top-10 finish and best result in a WGC stroke-play event. He was third at the 2006 Dell Technologies Match Play when he defeated Tom Lehman in the Consolation Match. Johnson moved from No. 40 to No. 28 in the Presidents Cup US Team standings and seeks to make his fifth consecutive appearance at the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey next month. Johnson's previous best showing in 18 PGA TOUR starts this season was T5 in his hometown event at last month's John Deere Classic, now one of four top-10s this season.
Charley Hoffman, in search of his fifth PGA TOUR win in his 332nd career start, posted a final-round 4-under 66 but came up short of winning, finishing six back of Matsuyama in third place. His most recent victory came at the 2016 Valero Texas Open. Last week, he lost a playoff to Jhonattan Vegas at the RBC Canadian Open, one of seven top-10 finishes this season. Hoffman was attempting to become the first player since Jordan Spieth at the 2015 Masters Tournament to win a title after losing a playoff the previous week. Spieth lost a playoff at the Shell Houston Open before his Masters win. In the last two weeks, Hoffman has advanced from No. 24 to No. 8 in the Presidents Cup US Team standings thanks to a runner-up finish at the RBC Canadian Open and his solo-third at the Bridgestone Invitational. Hoffman seeks to finish in the top-10 following the Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston to make the team. Captain Steve Stricker will have two captain's picks on September 6 before the team heads to Liberty National Golf Club for the Presidents Cup later that month. Hoffman seeks to advance to the FedExCup Playoffs and reach the TOUR Championship for the third time in his career (4th in 2010, 10th in 2015). Hoffman is one of 16 players to have made it to the FedExCup Playoffs in each of the 10 years the Playoffs have existed. In addition to being one of 16 players to have made it to the FedExCup Playoffs in each of the 10 years the Playoffs have existed, Hoffman is one of only three players (Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson) to have qualified for the BMW Championship in all 10 years.
Thomas Pieters fired a final-round 1-over 71 to fall to solo-fourth after sharing the 54-hole lead with Zach Johnson. Pieters joined Russell Knox (71/R2) and Rickie Fowler (71/R2) as the only players to shoot a round over par during the week and finish in the top nine. This was the first time that Pieters has held or shared a 54-hole lead in a PGA TOUR event. On the European Tour, Pieters has held or shared three previous times and carried one to victory – the 2015 Czech Masters. Pieters, a Special Temporary Member on the PGA TOUR, has five previous starts in WGC events. A T5 at the Mexico Championship this year was his previous-best showing in the WGC events before his 4th this week. Pieters made his 16th PGA TOUR start this week and now owns four top-five showings (T5/2017 Mexico Championship, T2/2017 Genesis Open, T4/2017 Masters Tournament, 4th/Bridgestone Invitational). At 34th in the Official World Golf Ranking to begin the week, the 25-year-old Pieters is the highest-ranked Belgian player in history and is projected to move inside the top 25.
As a Special Temporary Member, Pieters is eligible for unlimited sponsor exemptions for the remainder of the 2016-17 season as he attempts to earn a PGA TOUR card for the 2017-18 season through the Non-member FedExCup Points List. It's important to note: Special Temporary Members are not eligible for the FedExCup Playoffs, but Special Temporary Members or non-members who subsequently become regular PGA TOUR members by winning an official event during the season will be counted on the FedExCup points list, along with any FedExCup points earned as a non-member (excluding those won at World Golf Championships events as a non-member) and thus be eligible for the FedExCup Playoffs.
Additional Player Notes
Rory McIlroy, winner of the 2014 Bridgestone Invitational, made three early birdies to sit one stroke off the lead at 9-under through six holes of the final round before back-to-back bogeys at the 14th and 15th holes derailed his chances. McIlroy finished T5 at 7-under 273, his sixth top-10 in 10 starts on the PGA TOUR this season. During the week, McIlroy hit 52 of 56 tee shots (excluding par-3s) over 300 yards. McIlroy moved from No. 53 to No. 43 in the FedExCup standings.
Canada's Adam Hadwin finished T5 in his first World Golf Championships appearance, one of nine players in the field making their WGC debut this week. Hadwin, a first-time TOUR winner at this year's Valspar Championship, sat at No. 12 in the Presidents Cup International Team standings before the week and seeks to become the third Canadian to play in the Presidents Cup (Mike Weir, Graham DeLaet).
After playing the first four holes of the final round 4-over, J.B. Holmes produced a 6-under 29 on the inward nine, including a final-hole eagle 2 when he holed out from 105 yards, to match the back-nine record (five players) at the Bridgestone Invitational.
Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar were paired together in the final round for the first time since their epic final-round duel in the final group at The Open Championship, won by Spieth two weeks earlier. Both players shot 68 on Sunday at Firestone with Spieth (T13) finishing one stroke ahead of Kuchar (T17).
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson fired a final-round 4-under 66, his lowest closing round since a 66 at the Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston last year, to finish T17.
Akron native Harold Varner III finished T50. Varner made his World Golf Championships debut after winning the Australian PGA Championship late last year to qualify for this event.