Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama waved to a cheering crowd from the top balcony of a corporate suite over the 18th green at Sheshan International, where moments earlier he finished up a thorough beating of a world-class field in the HSBC Champions.
He never felt higher. His game never felt better.
The 24-year-old Japanese star can only hope that he’s just getting started.
Matsuyama never gave anyone a chance Sunday, closing with a 6-under 66 for a 7-shot victory that made him the first Asian to win a World Golf Championships event since the series began in 1999.
It was only fitting that he won at the event billed as “Asia’s major.”
“He was brilliant,” said defending champion Russell Knox, who played in the last group and was along for the ride. “No weaknesses the last two days. He drove the ball well and far, and his iron play was very good. And he made it look very easy.”
The only trouble came when it no longer mattered.
Matsuyama realised that one last birdie would give him 30 for the week, so he went for the green on the par-5 18th and his shot bounced out of a bush and tumbled into the water.
No problem as he took his drop in the rough, hit wedge to 18 feet and made one last putt to extend a streak of playing the final 45 holes without a bogey.
“No special number,” he said of his goal to make 30 birdies. “I made 19 birdies the first few days, so then I was thinking, ‘Well, if I make 11 more, I can win.’ So that was kind of my goal was to get to 30 birdies.”
He really didn’t need any of them.
Matsuyama finished at 23-under 265, 1 shot short of the tournament record that Dustin Johnson set three years ago.
He won by 7 over The Open champion Henrik Stenson (65) and Daniel Berger (69).
One week after becoming the first Japanese player since Jumbo Ozaki in 1998 to reach the top 10 in the world, the victory moved Matsuyama up to No. 6.