Matsuyama becomes Asia’s most prolific winner on PGA Tour

Hideki Matsuyama chips to the 17th green during Sunday's final round of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. (Associated Press)
Hideki Matsuyama chips to the 17th green during Sunday's final round of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. (Associated Press)

LOS ANGELES -- The conversation began seven years ago when Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama won his fourth PGA Tour title to pass Shigeki Maruyama, his mentor. Maruyama told him the ultimate mark was nine tour wins, a record for most by an Asian-born player.

Matsuyama had little reason to believe that would come Sunday at Riviera.

Six shots behind to start the final round of the Genesis Invitational, Matsuyama delivered a record performance -- 9-under 62, the lowest closing round by a winner at Riviera -- to achieve the record that really mattered. He now has nine PGA Tour wins, one better than K.J. Choi of South Korea.

“Reaching nine wins was one of my big goals, passing K.J. Choi,” Matsuyama said after his three-shot victory. “After my eighth win, I’ve been struggling with my back injury. There were a lot of times where I felt I was never going to win again. I struggled reaching to top 10, but I’m really happy that I was able to win today.”

This was an exquisite performance, second only to his 61 in the final round at Firestone in 2017 on a day no one else shot lower than 65.

Matsuyama was part of a five-way tie for the lead on the back nine until he hit a beautiful fade with a 6-iron from 187 yards into a breeze on the tough 15th hole that carried the bunker and rolled out to 8 inches for a tap-in birdie.

“Perfect shot,” he said.

On the par-3 16th, he dangled the club after his tee shot because it was 5 yards right of where he had been aiming, only to see it roll to 6 inches from the cup for another birdie. He added a third straight birdie with a chip down the slope on the par-5 17th to just more than 3 feet.

Matsuyama lightly pumped his fist -- a rare show of emotion for him -- when his 4-foot par putt with a sharp right-to-left break dropped in for a 62.

Doug Tewell shot 63 in the final round to win in 1986, the previous record.

The only downer for Matsuyama was not being able to pose with Tiger Woods, the tournament host who had to withdraw Friday with a bad case of the flu.

“To win in this tournament was one of my goals ever since I became pro,” Matsuyama said. “After Tiger became the host, that goal became a lot bigger. A little disappointed that I wasn’t able to take a picture with Tiger today.”

Matsuyama finished at 17-under 267 for a three-shot victory against Will Zalatoris (69) and Luke List (68). Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele, best friends playing in the final group, faded in the middle of the back nine and tied for fourth.

“Once I saw Hideki finishing at 17 under, it was a bit of a deflater, I’m sure for the rest of the field,” Schauffele said. “But hats off to him. It’s incredible. He’s done it a few times now, shooting lights out on Sunday.”

It was the third time Matsuyama shot 63 or lower on Sunday to win, most recently at the Sony Open two years ago. Maruyama sent him a text that day in Hawaii, reminding him of their talk about breaking Choi’s record.

Matsuyama said winning never entered his mind when he arrived to the course Sunday. Cantlay had a two-shot lead and had not taken too many wrong steps. But he was feeling a little ill, and the golf was a struggle.

Cantlay hit only four fairways and nine greens. He missed a 12-foot birdie putt on the easy opening par 5 and then didn’t have another look at birdie until the sixth hole. He made a birdie putt from 50 feet on the 18th for a 72.

Cantlay played with Schauffele, who struggled just as much. Schauffele got back in the mix with a tough birdie on the par-4 10th and holing a bunker shot for eagle on the par-5 11th. He bogeyed the next three holes and and rallied at the end for a 70.

List set the early pace. Zalatoris took the lead in the middle of the back nine. At one point, there was a five-way tie for the lead heading to the tough stretch on the back nine at Riviera.

And then Matsuyama took over with three straight birdies.

“The second shot on 15 was probably the best shot I had,” he said through his interpreter.

Matsuyama had struggled the last two years, starting with a neck and back injury at Bay Hill in March 2022. He had only six top 10s worldwide during that stretch and fell out of the top 50 in the world.

“Ever since that injury, I was worried every week something bad might happen,” Matsuyama said. “This week I had no issue. I played without any worries. That really helped.”

The win was worth $4 million from the $20 million purse and moves him to No. 20 in the world with the entire major season ahead of him. Matsuyama now has 18 wins worldwide, eight on the Japan Golf Tour and the unofficial Hero World Challenge, also hosted by Woods. At least he has a picture from that day.