Matsuyama wins, Tiger stumbles at Hero Challenge
Despite his late-round struggles Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama held on for his third straight victory after keeping Henrik Stenson at bay to win the Hero World Challenge.
Matsuyama kicked off the final round at the Albany course with a seven-shot lead however a double-bogey at the 10th hole and another dropped shot at the 14th saw him close out the tournament with a 1-over 73 and just a two-shot winning margin.
“I’ve played very, very well until today,” Matsuyama said after his round. “Today I struggled a bit.”
The victory was Matsuyama’s fourth in his last five events worldwide including the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Japan Tour’s Mitsui Sumitomo Visa Taiheiyo Masters and Japan Open.
Stenson got to within three shots with four holes to play before a three-putt at the 15th for par effectively ended his chances. The World No.4 settled for a final round 68.
While golf fans were enjoying Matsuyama’s incredible run of form, all eyes were on Tiger Woods, who was playing his first tournament in more than 15 months. The former World No.1 collapsed in the final round, closing with a 4-over 76 to fall back to 15th place in the 18-man field.
On the surface of it, Woods’ return may look like somewhat of a letdown but there was plenty of good news for him buried in the statistics.
Woods lead the field in birdies this week with a total of 24, two ahead of Matsuyama, and he played the front nine in 10-under par across the four rounds this week. The uncharacteristic number of double-bogeys (6) made all the difference with those 12 dropped shots moving him from 15th into a spot alongside Stenson in second place.
“It’s really good to be back playing again, competing,” Woods said. “Unfortunately, I made a lot of mistakes. I made a lot of birdies, but I made a lot of mistakes.”
“I made some poor decisions. I hit the ball in some wrong spots. Quite frankly, it feels kind of weird not to be in a cart. Getting my legs back, focusing for a long period of time, these are the things I missed for a year-and-a-half.”
Woods will now return home to his family for the Christmas/New Year period before a rumoured return at the 2017 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship in January.