THE PLAYERS Rd 4: Japan’s Matsuyama finishes top-10

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Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama enjoyed his second top-10 finish at THE PLAYERS Championship on Sunday to prove he was back to his best form.

Matsuyama signed off at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass with a 5-under 67 to finish T8 on 12-under 276, four shots behind winner Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland who lifted his first PLAYERS title and 15th PGA TOUR victory.

With an 11-under weekend charge, Matsuyama, a five-time PGA TOUR winner but not since 2017, was delighted to maintain his good form with a third top-10 on the PGA TOUR this season. The 27-year-old also moved up to 31st position on the latest FedExCup points list.

The highlight of his day was an eagle at the par-5 16th hole when he rifled a five-iron approach to six feet. Matsuyama also made four birdies against a lone bogey in the PGA TOUR’s flagship US$12.5 million tournament.

“I hit some good quality shots, especially with the irons and made some putts. It was a good weekend. Hit a five iron (on 16) and hit it exactly where I wanted it to go,” he said.

Two years ago, Matsuyama finished a career high fourth on the FedExCup points list and was also ranked second on the Official World Golf Ranking. A wrist injury put a speed bump to his rise but he was pleased with his season thus far where he has not missed a single cut.

“Compared to last year, it’s much better this year. It’s been satisfying. Without results, it would be a struggle. So far so good … I feel confident with my game,” said Matsuyama, whose next assignment is the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas in two weeks’ time.

“I don’t really compare to 2017 … all I can control is how I’m playing now and I’m playing good. I’ve had the results. Hopefully I’ll get there (winning again).”

Korea’s Byeong Hun An was Asia’s next highest finisher at T26 following a final round 71 which included a disappointing double bogey six on his last hole when his third shot found the water hazard. He carded five birdies and two other bogeys during his round.

“I was playing quite well until that point. I should have played better. I started the week nicely (he shot 66 in the first round) and didn’t continue the momentum. Hopefully the next time I will continue to play well,” said An.

Countryman Sung Kang, who finished T10 last week, closed with a 72 for T47 while 2017 PLAYERS champion Si Woo Kim carded a 73 to finish T56. Chinese Taipei’s C.T. Pan settled for T72 after a 76.

McIlroy joined Tiger Woods and Henrik Stenson as the only players to win at least one FedExCup, THE PLAYERS, a major and a World Golf Championships event with his one-shot triumph over Jim Furyk after a thrilling final round shootout where he closed with a final round 70.

“It means a lot. I knew today was going to be difficult just by looking at the forecast. I thought anything in the 60s was probably going to get it done for me, and I didn’t quite get to that number, but I needed to show a lot of character out there, too, over through 4, double bogeyed 4, hit it in the water, and I think all the experiences I’ve had over the last few weeks in terms of trying to win and not getting over the line definitely helped me,” said McIlroy.

“Very proud, very honored to be able to call myself a PLAYERS champion, a tournament I haven’t won before, so great to obviously add to the CV.”

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