Hideki Matsuyama sets sights on maiden major title after WGC-HSBC Champions win
Published 30/10/2016 | 10:46
Hideki Matsuyama has set his sights on a maiden major title after maintaining his brilliant recent form with an historic victory in the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
Matsuyama carded a flawless closing 66 at Sheshan International to finish 23 under par and become the first Japanese player to win a World Golf Championships title.
The 24-year-old, who won the Japan Open a fortnight ago and was second in Malaysia last week, finished seven shots clear of Open champion Henrik Stenson and American Daniel Berger.
Rory McIlroy moved to second in the world rankings after sharing fourth place with Bill Haas on 15 under, McIlroy having missed from three feet for birdie on the 18th in a closing 66.
Matsuyama took a three-shot lead into the final round and was never in danger of being caught after a front nine of 33, with a hat-trick of birdies from the 13th making certain of his first European Tour title.
"I was really nervous at the start of the day, but I was able to birdie hole number one," said Matsuyama, whose win lifts him to a career-high sixth in the world rankings. "I kind of got myself into the rhythm of the day and after that it was smooth sailing.
" I really don't know why I played well this week. Over the last three years I've had to withdraw (from this tournament) twice, and I didn't play very well the other year.
"But I got off to a good start and I really didn't make any changes to my golf swing or anything else. I have putted really well these last three weeks and that's probably the difference.
"I knew YE Yang won the US PGA Championship and actually I was surprised when they announced that I was the first Asian to win a WGC event.
"Winning today I feel has got me closer to being able to compete a lot better in the major tournaments. So my next goal is, of course, to win a major, and I'm going to do all that I can to prepare well for that."
Stenson surged through the field with a bogey-free 65 and takes over from Danny Willett at the top of the Race to Dubai, with Masters champion Willett finishing 14 over par and 75th in the 78-man field.
"I was chasing Danny and so was Rory and I could see Rory was going at it," said Stenson, who started the week more than 400,000 points behind Willett, but ended it 261,387 in front.
"I just tried to keep up and it was nice to sneak that birdie in on the last to go one ahead of him.
"It's going to be tight all the way to the end, and that's the way we like it. It would be nice to go into the last one knowing that if you win in Dubai, you win overall."
McIlroy trails Stenson by more than a million points and has just one event left to play - the season-ending DP World Tour Championship - after withdrawing from next week's Turkish Airlines Open.
"Obviously there are a couple of good scores in there mixed with a couple of ones that I'd like to take back," said McIlroy, who has won the Race to Dubai for the last two years.
"It wasn't the win that I wanted, but overall, the week's been pretty good."
Defending champion Russell Knox, who began the final round three shots off the lead, struggled to a closing 74 to finish in a tie for ninth with Sergio Garcia.