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Sizzling 62 at Riviera: Hideki Matsuyama smiling again after winning 2024 Genesis Invitational

Hideki Matsuyama is his own toughest critic.

The 31-year-old past Masters champion has developed a reputation for reacting as if he hated his shot more than hot sauce on ice cream only for the shot in question to be a thing of beauty.

Wearing his Sunday yellow golf shirt, even Matsuyama couldn’t resist cracking a smile as he struck irons on back-to-back holes on the back nine to within a foot to set up kick-in birdies and win the Genesis Invitational.

“It was 184 into the wind and I executed perfectly,” Matsuyama said through his agent, Ken Harai, who served as his interpreter, of his 6-iron at 15. “Happy with how I struck it.”

The Japanese star broke out of a five-way tie for the lead with three birdies in his final four holes to shoot bogey-free 9-under 62 at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, the lowest final-round score in tournament history.

Matsuyama, who has battled a neck injury the last two years, won for the ninth time on the PGA Tour, breaking out of a tie with Korea’s K.J. Choi for the most wins by an Asian-born male golfer, signing for a 72-hole total of 17-under 267 to defeat Luke List and Will Zalatoris by three strokes.

“There were a lot of times where I felt, you know, I was never going to win again,” Matsuyama said.

He erased a six-shot overnight deficit by making three birdies to start both nines of his round. Matsuyama drained his longest putt of the tournament at the 12th hole, a 46-foot birdie, to reach 14 under and cut the deficit to one. Patrick Cantlay led after each of the first three days but faded on Sunday, shooting 72 and finished T-4. He played alongside Xander Schauffele (70), the best man at his wedding, whose birdie at the 10th hole was the first of the day for either of the competitors in the final group. Cantlay ended his string of nine straight pars at the 10th with a bogey to trail by two. He bounced back with a birdie at 11 but was upstaged by Schauffele, who holed a bunker shot for eagle. Both improved to 14 under and joined a five-way tie for the lead when List (68), who vaulted in front with six threes in his first seven holes, made bogey at 12. Zalatoris, who underwent a microdiscectomy on his back in April, reached 15 under with a birdie at 13 but it turned out to be his last of the day (69).

“I’ve got a lot of silver in my house so getting another second place doesn’t really sit that well, but obviously coming back from what I had to go through physically, you know, we’re in the right direction,” Zalatoris said. “Hats off to Hideki, that is just stellar playing.”

Matsuyama broke out of the pack with his third stretch of three birdies in a row. At 15, he flushed an iron from 189 yards to inside a foot for his seventh birdie of the day. At the par-3, 160-yard 16th hole, his tee shot looked like instant replay but it wasn’t – this time he stuffed his tee shot to 6 inches.

“I hit it maybe like five yards to the right of my target, but it became a good shot,” he explained. “All is good.”

Matsuyama, the critic, rated his ball striking for the rest of the round as more like he’d shot 75 than 62. He credited his putter and short game for his birdie barrage. Matsuyama chipped close at the par-5 17th for his final birdie of the day. His long-range birdie putt at the last to tie the course record burned the left edge of the cup.

Tiger Woods, who serves as tournament host at the Genesis Invitational, withdrew from the tournament after completing just six holes on Friday citing illness. He confirmed on Saturday via social media that he had the flu and missed the trophy presentation.

“A little disappointed that I wasn’t able to take a picture with Tiger today,” Matsuyama said.

He had been winless since the 2022 Sony Open in Hawaii, last recorded a top-10 finish nearly a year ago at the Players Championship in March, and had dropped out of the top 50 in the world a month ago. (He entered the week at No. 55.) Matsuyama’s injury dates to the 2022 Arnold Palmer Invitational and it caused him to withdraw most recently from the BMW Championship in August.

“Ever since that injury, I was worried every week that something bad might happen to my neck,” he said.

Matsuyama confirmed that his neck has been improving this year and he’s felt pain-free.

“I had this feeling of I can do something special maybe this year,” he said. “This week I played without any worries so that really helped too.”

It helped him stand tallest on Sunday in the city of angels.


Source: Golf Week