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Matsuyama's 61 earns emphatic WGC Bridgestone win

Is Matsuyama trending towards becoming Japan's first men's major champion? (Photo: Getty Images)
Hideki Matsuyama could not have recorded a better preparation for next week's final men's major of the year than his emphatic victory over the world’s best players at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Ohio.

The 25-year-old’s final round of 61 equaled the course record over the South Course and improved him from his overnight 3rd position to a five-shot win over Zach Johnson.

It is Matsuyama's fifth PGA Tour title, two of which have been WGC events, and now the next step, a potential first major championship, awaits at next week’s PGA Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Japanese star's dominant finish at Firestone will likely move him back past Jordan Spieth to World No. 2, to the top of the FedEx Cup points table with his third PGA Tour title this season and take his PGA Tour earnings in 2017 beyond US$7.7 million. 

Matsuyama, in just his fourth full PGA Tour season, now has career earnings of over US$20 million but off course earnings likely dwarf those figures and if he was to win again next week and become the very first Japanese player to win a coveted major title, those earnings would reach a new stratosphere.

With a further eight victories on the Japan Tour, Matsuyama has become a truly international star, and after a stellar amateur career that included back-to-back Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship wins and lead amateur honours in one of his two US Masters appearances as an amateur, his transition to the paid ranks has been stunning.  

Matsuyama birdied his final three holes today to ease well clear of his chasers but not only was it the margin of the victory but it was its apparent ease which opens up the hopes of a major breakthrough next week.

“I did play with Tiger four years ago and watched him shoot 61,” said Matsuyama. “I just couldn't believe it that anyone could shoot a 61 on this golf course. And then from that point, to work hard and to be able to do it today is a dream come true.

“Last night after the round, I went to the range and hit it really well and had a lot of confidence. Then I came to the golf course this morning and I don't know where it went. It was probably the worst warm-up I've ever had on a tournament that I've won. 

“I was shocked, and the first tee shot showed it. I hit it left, but something about that shot, something clicked and from that point on, I was able to find it again.

“It's difficult to compare my game with the game of my elite peers and the world number one. They have majors, I haven't won a major yet. I have a lot of work left to do. But that's not to say that I don't have confidence. I'm going to keep working and keep preparing and doing my best and hopefully someday I can reach that level that my peers have.”

Scott Hend was unable to maintain the pace of his brilliant third round of 63, recording a final round of 73, but he would lead the Australians when finishing in a share of 10th place which, against a field of this calibre, was an impressive effort.

Hend played with Matsuyama on the final day and, while outclassed, he was not embarrassed and although there were no birdies today for the Florida-based Queenslander he can be satisfied with a very solid week.

Adam Scott was next best of the Australians in a tie for 13th, Jason Day was 24th, Marc Leishman 41st, Sam Brazel 47th and Rod Pampling 74th.     



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