HONOLULU (AP) — Hideki Matsuyama made up a five-shot deficit on the back nine and then won the Sony Open in a playoff with one of the best shots he never saw, a 3-wood into the sun to 3 feet for an eagle to beat Russell Henley on Sunday.
The eighth career PGA Tour victory for Matsuyama tied him with K.J. Choi for most tour victories by an Asian-born player.
“I got on a roll,” said Matsuyama, who shot 31 on the back nine while Henley made eight pars and a bogey. “I’m glad it came out this way.”
Matsuyama hammered a driver on the par-5 18th in regulation to set up a two-putt birdie for a 7-under 63 and got into a playoff when Henley missed a 10-foot birdie putt and closed with 65.
Back to the 18th for the sudden-death playoff, Matsuyama this time hit 3-wood off the tee with Henley in a fairway bunker. That left him another 3-wood, and he immediately held up his hand to shield the sun and search for the ball.
He didn’t need to see it. One of the larger Sunday galleries at Waialae erupted with cheers as the ball landed about 10 feet in front of the back pin and rolled out to 3 feet for the eagle.
Henley, after having to lay up out of the sand, sent his lob wedge from 85 yards bounding over the green and he made bogey.
At that point, it didn’t matter. Matsuyama tapped in his putt for his second win this season. Both times, he finished with an eagle, only he needed this shot. His eagle at the Zozo Championship in Japan gave him a five-shot victory.
Matsuyama knew his Sony Open history. It was where Isao Aoki became the first Japanese player to win on the PGA Tour in 1983 when he holed out from the fairway for eagle.
“To follow him up, I’m over the moon,” Matsuyama said.
They finished at 23-under 257. Matsuyama had his 13th consecutive round in the 60s dating to the final day at the CJ Cup at Summit in Las Vegas.
Kevin Kisner (64) and Seamus Power of Ireland (65) tied for third, four shots behind.
This was a two-man race all along, even if it looked to be a runaway at the turn.
Matsuyama made a pair of early birdies to get within one shot, and he had a big gallery by Honolulu standards, many of them yelling, “Su-go-i!” after his two birdies — Japanese for “great.”
Henley held his nerve. He kept the lead by making a 10-foot par putt after going well long on at No. 5. That appeared to free him, for Henley went on a tear from there — a tap-in birdie, an 8-foot birdie, a 3-foot birdie and then an approach to 3 feet for eagle on the par-5 ninth.
Matsuyama three-putted for par and suddenly was five shots behind.
So much for coasting home. The first sign of a struggle for Henley was a wedge that he pulled 30 feet left of the flag on No. 10. Matsuyama started the back nine with a birdie, and then a two-shot swing followed on the par-3 11th when Henley went left into a bunker for bogey and Matsuyama holed a 12-foot par.
Henley saved two big pars, including an 8-footer on No. 13, and Matsuyama shaved another shot off the lead with a 20-foot birdie on the 15th.
That set up the big finish. Matsuyama nearly swung out of his shoes on the drive at No. 18 in regulation, the longest of the day, though his second shot was still 55 feet short and it required one of his better lag putts of the week.
Henley’s birdie putt for the win rippled over the right edge of the cup. It was the fifth time Henley had at least a share of the 54-hole lead and failed to convert dating to his first win to start his rookie season at the Sony Open in 2013.