HIDEKI Matsuyama will head into the final major of the year in the form of his life after winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational by five shots in Ohio.
The 25-year-old Japanese star, the world No 3, shot a nine-under-par 61 to equal the course record on the South Course of the Firestone Country Club in Akron.
He had trailed Zach Johnson and Thomas Pieters by two shots going into the final round, but sunk an eagle and seven birdies to take the title by five shots from Johnson.
Matsuyama became only the third non-American golfer (the others being Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia) to win five PGA Tour events by the age of 26.
He followed only Jose Maria Olazabal, Tiger Woods and Garcia in shooting 61 on the course.
Victory at Firestone was Matsuyama’s sixth in his last 20 starts, during which time he has also enjoyed four top-five finishes and five more in the top 25.
It was his second WGC title, having become the first Asian player to win one last October, when he won by seven shots in Shanghai.
Four years ago Hideki Matsuyama played with @TigerWoods when he shot 61 at Firestone.
Today, it was his turn. pic.twitter.com/80oZlbBqWN
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) August 6, 2017
“I played with Tiger four years ago when he shot 61 so I knew 61 was the number today,” Matsuyama said through an interpreter. “I knew if I birdied 16, 17 and 18 I could get there.”
He won in such emphatic fashion despite a terrible warm-up on the final day.
“You wouldn’t have believed how I warmed up,” he said.
“I was not hitting it good on the range. I did hit some good shots (during the round) but I was nervous all the way around because I really wasn’t sure of my swing today.”
Matsuyama will now head to Quail Hollow in North Carolina for the final major of the year, the PGA Championship, which starts on Thursday.
He goes there as one of the favourites after top-15 finishes in the previous three majors this year.
WGC-Bridgestone Invitational final leaderboard
-16 Hideki Matsuyama (Japan); -11 Zach Johnson (United States); -10 Charley Hoffman (US); -8 Thomas Pieters (Belgium); -7 Paul Casey (England), Rory McIlroy (Northern Ireland), Russell Knox (Scotland), Adam Hadwin (Canada).