AKRON – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – Hideki Matsuyama won his second World Golf Championship event, capturing the Bridgestone Invitational with a blistering final-round score of 9-under-par 61 on Sunday to shoot 16-under 264 for the tourney at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
“When you’re making birdies, you get relaxed real quick,” the 25-year-old Japanese player said through interpreter Bob Turner.
Matsuyama, who also won a WGC event last fall in Shanghai, birdied his last three holes to help overcome a two-shot deficit and tie the course record held by Jose Maria Olazabal, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia. Matsuyama won his fifth tour title with a final round that included an eagle and seven birdies.
“I did play with Tiger four years ago, watched him shoot 61,” Matsuyama said. “I just couldn’t believe that anyone could shoot 61 on this golf course.
“Then from that point, to work hard and be able to do it today is a dream come true.”
Matsuyama finished five shots ahead of second-place Zach Johnson and six shots up on third-place finisher Charley Hoffman, both of the United States.
With the win, Matsuyama regained the No. 1 position in the FedExCup standings. He now leads Jordan Spieth by 114 points. Matsuyama also returns to the top of the tour’s money list.
Johnson, who headed into the final round with a share of the 54-hole lead, failed to secure the win despite a 68, which included just one bogey. He hit 14 of 18 greens in the final round but couldn’t come close to matching Matsuyama.
“I think if I could have made a few more putts early on today, it maybe could have changed the outcome,” Johnson said. “I thought if I got to 13 (under), 14, I would have a chance.
“I didn’t see 16. Granted, it’s not like anybody or specifically myself was putting that much pressure on him, but I’m not sure that would have mattered either. So tip your cap to Hideki.”
Hoffman posted a final-round 66. His most recent victory came at the 2016 Valero Texas Open. He was attempting to become the first player since Jordan Spieth at the 2015 Masters Tournament to win a title after losing a playoff the previous week. Hoffman lost a playoff to Jhonattan Vegas at the RBC Canadian Open last week, one of his seven top-10 finishes this season.
Thomas Pieters of Belgium (272) finished fourth, and Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, Paul Casey of England, Russell Knox of Scotland and Adam Hadwin of Canada tied for fifth at 273.
Pieters fired a final-round 71 after sharing the 54-hole lead with Johnson. Pieters joined Knox and Rickie Fowler as the only players to shoot a round over par during the week and finish in the top nine.
McIlroy, winner of the 2014 Bridgestone Invitational, made three early birdies to sit one stroke off the lead at 9 under through six holes of the final round before back-to-back bogeys at the 14th and 15th holes derailed his chances.
Hadwin, one of nine players making his WGC debut this week, sat at No. 12 in the Presidents Cup International Team standings before the week. He is seeking to become the third Canadian to play in the Presidents Cup.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson fired a final-round 66, his lowest closing round since a 66 at the Dell Technologies Championship at TPC Boston last year, to finish tied for 17th at 277