Hideki Matsuyama wins Memorial in a playoff against Kevin Na
JUN 01, 2014 6:32p ET
Hideki Matsuyama earned his first victory in America and validation as one of golf's young stars Sunday with a birdie on the 18th hole to force a playoff and a 10-foot par putt on the first extra hole to win the Memorial.
He lost the lead by dropping three shots on two holes, and he didn't look like a winner when he pushed his drive toward the bunkers on the final hole. Lightly slamming his driver to the turf in disgust, the head broke off.
But the 22-year-old from Japan followed with an approach to just outside 5 feet for birdie and a 3-under 69. That forced a playoff with Kevin Na, who finished his round of 64 about two hours earlier.
Matsuyama chose not to replace his broken driver in the playoff, and his 3-wood on the 18th hole went into the bunker. Na drove left into the creek and still had about 10 feet for bogey when Matsuyama made his par putt.
"Right from the 15th hole, I had a lot of missed shots," Matsuyama said. "The double bogey at 16, bogey at 17, not a real good tee shot -- I thought -- at 18. But when I saw the ball on the fairway on the 18th hole there, that's when I was able to think I still have a chance.
He pumped his fist as the ball was a few inches from dropping.
"I'm really, really happy. It's a dream come true to win at Mr. Nicklaus' course," Matsuyama said through his interpreter, referring to tournament host Jack Nicklaus.
Matsuyama won for the sixth time in his career, with all of the rest of his victories coming on the Japan Golf Tour. He had a pair of top 10s in the majors last year.
Nicklaus greeted him behind the 18th green after spending much of the back nine in the broadcast booth. It was a brand of golf that was unfamiliar to golf's greatest champion as the Memorial became only the latest event where proven players faltered badly.
Watson, who started the final round with a one-shot lead, was still in control until a couple of wild tee shots -- one into deep rough on the 14th that led to bogey, and one so far right on the par-5 15th that it went over the trees and into a neighborhood, far out-of-bounds. That led to double bogey and he never recovered. Watson closed with a 72 and finished one shot out of the playoff.
"It's tough," said Watson, who was going for his third win of the year. "I made one bad decision. If I hit 4-wood off the tee instead of driver on the par 5, we make 5 and we win by one. But I made double, so we lost by one."
Scott had a share of the lead after 11 holes and was poised for his second straight PGA Tour win. But he put his tee shot into the water on the par-3 12th for double bogey, took two shots to get out of a bunker on the 14th for bogey, and then dropped another shot at the 15th when his wedge hit the pin and caromed back into the fairway. He closed with a 71 and tied for fourth with Chris Kirk (68).
"The whole thing is frustrating as I stand here right now," the Australian said. "But everyone is going to feel like that. We all could have done something different. If we all did, who knows what the result would be?"
Na was in the clubhouse at Muirfield Village, leaning against two pillows watching this collection of errors, even joking that he might win by sitting on a couch. He finally headed out to the range, but one swing into the water was too much to overcome.
The only consolation for Na was that his runner-up finish moved him high enough in the world rankings that he will be exempt for the U.S. Open. He had planned on going through 36-hole qualifying Monday.
Matsuyama was able to replace his driver because the playoff is not part of the final round. Instead, he chose to take 3-wood. It looked as if it might cost him when the shot was well back and caught the bunker, but Na helped by finding the water. Matsuyama's approach hit a fan left of the green, but he played a good chip and made the most important putt of his young career.
Matsuyama should rise to about No. 13 in the world rankings after the victory.
"I just think you've just seen the start of what's going to be truly one of your world's great players over the next 10 to 15 years," Nicklaus said.
A two-time winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur -- he made the cut both times at the Masters as an amateur -- Matsuyama took a different route than Ryo Ishikawa by waiting to turn pro until a year ago. He graduated from college in Japan a few weeks before the Masters.
Matsuyama also had experience at Muirfield Village. He played in the Presidents Cup in October, teaming with Scott in four of the matches.