Hideki Matsuyama Wins 2022 Sony Open in Hawaii

Hideki Matsuyama Wins Sony Open 2022
Hideki Matsuyama reacts after making birdie on the 15th green, as Russell Henley looks on, during the final round of the Sony Open at Waialae CC on Jan 16, 2022 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Chris Condon / PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Apparently, five strokes behind with nine holes to go is nothing if you have a green jacket.

Reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama pulled off that feat on Sunday in Honolulu, shooting a final-round 7-under 63 to win the Sony Open in a playoff against three-time PGA Tour champion Russell Henley.

It was the eighth career PGA Tour victory for the Japanese superstar Matsuyama, matching him with South Korea’s K.J. Choi atop the all-time list of wins for an Asian player.

Matsuyama, still only 29 years of age, won the same event at the same course (Waialae Country Club) where Japan golf legend Isao Aoki became the first Japanese-born player to win on the PGA Tour: Aoki took the 1983 Sony by one stroke over American Jack Renner.

And it was not just the fact that Matsuyama won – his third Tour win in the past nine months – but how he won that made his accomplishment even more impressive.

Two down to Henley through 54-holes, Matsuyama had to watch from up close as Henley put on a front-nine clinic, chasing birdies on 6, 7, and 8, before a phenomenal eagle on the par-5 9th hole put the 32-year-old up by five at the turn.

Hideki Matsuyama Wins Sony Open 2022
Hideki Matsuyama lines up a putt on the 13th green during the final round of the Sony Open at Waialae CC on Jan 16, 2022 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Gregory Shamus via Getty Images)

However, Matsuyama found his top gear on the back nine, and raw skill combined with perseverance kept him in the title hunt as no other player in the field made a serious push at the lead.

After a bogey-free 3-under front nine, Matsuyama birdied the 10th hole to cut the lead to four, and then added another on 11 which, combined with a Henley bogey on the same hole, suddenly made it just a two-stroke lead with seven holes left.

Matsuyama would then sink an 18-foot putt on the par-4 15th; a surprising theme for a man who used to struggle with the flatstick to pull within one. Meanwhile, Henley was only able to keep mustering pars.

Nearly tying Henley with a 10-foot birdie chance on 16, Matsuyama was able to stay in range, just one stroke back, with the par-5 18th approaching. He had birdied the 18th all three days, while Henley had eagled the hole in his second round, with pars the other two.

On 18, Matsuyama was able to reach the green in two, but left himself a difficult 54-footer even for the two-putt. He judged the speed beautifully on the eagle attempt, and was then able to convert a two-foot putt for birdie. It completed a second consecutive bogey-free round of 63.

Hideki Matsuyama Wins Sony Open 2022
Hideki Matsuyama putts on the 17th green, as Russell Henley looks on, during the final round of the Sony Open at Waialae CC on Jan 16, 2022 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Gregory Shamus via Getty Images)

The impressive back-nine looked like it very well might not be enough though, as Henley had a 10-foot birdie putt to close out the win, something he has struggled with in more recent years, including a 54-hole lead he was unable to convert at last June’s U.S. Open. Henley just barely caught the lip on the right, sending the Sony into extra holes.

Henley’s final regulation tally on Sunday was a 5-under 65, which most days, would be more than a enough while holding a two-stroke 54-hole lead.

Matsuyama, carrying all the momentum at that point, needed just a single hole to oust Henley. Heading back to 18, Henley sent his tee shot into the bunker, and then blasted his approach over the back of the green. Prior to his approach, Matsuyama basically sealed the win with a ridiculous 3-wood approach with the sun in his eyes, knocking his second shot from 251 yards to within 14 feet.

Henley ended up bungling the hole further, carding a bogey-six while Matsuyama calmly knocked in his eagle putt for the win.

It was the second victory for Matsuyama in the still-young 2022 PGA Tour season. He committed a dominant five-stroke rout in his native Japan at the ZOZO Championship in July.

Finishing five strokes out of the playoff, third place was shared by Tour veteran Kevin Kisner, who shot a bogey-free 6-under 64 in the final round, and Ireland’s Seamus Power. Both Kisner and Power had won on the PGA Tour since July.

Sony Open Final Scores

Top-10 Finishers

Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Hideki Matsuyama -23 (-7)
2. Russell Henley -23 (-5)
3. Kevin Kisner -19 (-6)
3. Seamus Power -19 (-5)
5. Michael Thompson -18 (-7)
5. Lucas Glover -18 (-5)
7. Keith Mitchell -17 (-7)
7. Russell Knox -17 (-5)
7. Matt Kuchar -17 (-3)
7. Adam Svensson -17 (-3)

Other Notables

Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
11. Corey Conners -16 (-6)
12. Ryan Palmer -15 (-5)
20. Kevin Na -13 (-2)
36. Marc Leishman -11 (-4)
36. Billy Horschel -11 (-3)
36. Stewart Cink -11 (-2)
42. Jim Furyk -9 (-5)
55. Si Woo Kim -7 (E)
55. Harris English -7 (+1)
61. Webb Simpson -5 (-1)
65. Jimmy Walker -2 (+2)


How Hideki Matsuyama Won The Sony Open

Hideki Matsuyama Wins Sony Open 2022
Hideki Matsuyama putts on the 18th green during the final round of the Sony Open at Waialae CC on Jan 16, 2022 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Ben Jared / PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Matsuyama opened the Sony Open in Hawaii with a 4-under 66 in the first round, and then bettered his score each of the next two days, shooting a 65 on Friday and a 63 on Saturday, which he would match on Sunday.

He led the field in birdies for the week with 26, and only bogeyed three holes in four rounds, with the last being at the eighth hole in his second round. He played the final 46 holes bogey-free.

Matsuyama is known in professional golf primarily for his immaculate tee-to-green game, but surprisingly, his putter was his best weapon for the week. He gained 7.3 strokes to the field with his putter, a career best.

Matsuyama’s Winning Numbers

Topline Stats
Driving: 305.5 (T57)
Fairways: 71.43% (40/56) (T20)
Greens: 73.61% (53/72) (T63)
Putts/GIR: 1.642 (7th)
Birdies: 26 (1st)


What Winning the Sony Weans For Matsuyama

Hideki Matsuyama Wins Sony Open 2022
Hideki Matsuyama celebrates with the trophy after winning the Sony Open in a playoff over Russell Henley at Waialae CC on Jan 16, 2022 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins via Getty Images)

After his win at The Masters, Matsuyama was in a minor funk the rest of the season, posting just one result of better than T26 over his final ten starts, but has been in some of the best form of his career in the 2022 season, with the win at The Sony in addition to his victory at the ZOZO. He was also T6 at the season-opening Fortinet Championship in September, and a week ago in Maui at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, he finished a respectable T13 in the 32-man field.

Moving up from 19th to 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking, Matsuyama is showing an extraordinarily well-rounded game, which figures him to be a threat in every event he enters this upcoming season.

Statistically, he still struggles with his putter, ranking 175th on Tour in strokes gained: putting last season, but has flashed the ability to straighten things out with his flat stick when he gets in contention.

Matsuyama’s 2022 PGA Tour Season

Starts: 6
Cuts Made: 6
Wins: 2 (ZOZO, Sony)
Additional Top 10: 1
Earnings: $3,550,423 (1st)
FedExCup Pts: 1,153 (1st)
World Rank Before/After: 19/10


Sunday’s Stars at the Sony

Jim Furyk Hole in One 2022 Sony Open
Jim Furyk talks with the media after his opening round at the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae CC on Jan 13, 2022 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Ben Jared / PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Two players tied Matsuyama’s 63 for the low round of the day. The higher finish of the two was the round shot by Michael Thompson, who rose six places in the final standings, from T11 to T5, notching his first top 10 in nearly 12 months. Thompson also shot a 63 in the first round.

The other was posted by Keith Mitchell, who went bogey-free to jump 11 spots from T18 to T7. Mitchell only carded one bogey the entire week, which came on the 11th hole in round 1.

Ireland’s Seamus Power birdied his final two holes to shoot a 5-under 65 and finish in a share of third, his fifth top-15 finish in his last six starts. The 34-year-old went on a similar streak in the latter part of the 2021 season, highlighted by his first career victory, which came at the Barbasol Championship.

After missing the cut at last year’s Sony Open, Power has risen from 438th to 49th in the world rankings.

Playing in his first PGA Tour event since missing the cut at the RBC Heritage in April, 51-year-old Jim Furyk had a “turn back the clock” kind of round on Thursday, opening at Waialae with an 8-under 62 that had him just a stroke off the early lead.

The 17-time Tour winner fizzled with consecutive 72s in rounds 2 and 3 to plummet down the leaderboard, but gained 17 spots back with an impressive 5-under 65, allowing him to finish T42. He carded 13 birdies and an ace (17th hole) between his first and last rounds of the week.


Sunday’s Stumbles at the Sony Open

Kevin Na Leads 2022 Sony Open
Kevin Na gestures on the 16th green during the first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae CC on Jan 13, 2022 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins via Getty Images)

Defending champion Kevin Na exploded out of the gates in round 1, opening his week at Waialae with a 9-under 61, signaling to his competitors that he was a serious threat to go back-to-back. A 71 in the second round undid a lot of his round one work, and his final day was further disappointing, as three front-nine bogeys led to a 2-under 68, dropping him nine spots from T9 to T20.

A win at November’s RSM Classic propelled Talor Gooch to the top spot in the early FedExCup standings, which he had held since. Sitting at T11 coming into the final round, Gooch was in position for another strong finish. However, an underwhelming 1-under dropped him 16 spots to T27, and he was passed by Matsuyama in the standings in the process.

Coming off a 2021 season where he won twice, finished solo-third at the U.S. Open, and made the U.S. Ryder Cup squad, the recent slide of Harris English continued in Honolulu on Sunday. His 1-over 71 was one of just three over-par rounds in the round 4 field, as he fell 23 spots from T32 to T55. In his previous two Tour starts, English has finished 14th in an 18-man field, and 30th in a 32-man field.


Quotable

“I was five back at the turn, Russ was playing just beautifully, I got on a roll, and I’m glad it came out this way.”
Hideki Matsuyama, Sony Open Champion

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here