Matsuyama wins 2nd straight Asian Am title

 Amateur Hideki Matsuyama hits a shot on the second hole during the second round of the 2011 Masters.

Amateur Hideki Matsuyama hits a shot on the second hole during the second round of the 2011 Masters.

Hideki Matsuyama shot 67 Sunday at Singapore Island Country Club to win his second consecutive Asian Amateur Championship.

The victory earned Matsuyama another Masters invitation. He finished 27th at Augusta National this year to earn low-amateur honors. Matsuyama and runner-up Soo-min Lee of South Korea earned exemptions into International Final Qualifying for the 2012 Open Championship.

Matsuyama shot 18-under 270, the lowest 72-hole total in tournament history, to finish one shot ahead of Lee. New Zealand’s Ben Campbell, the leader after the second and third rounds, finished two shots back after shooting 70 Sunday. Australia's Cameron Smith finished in fourth place at 15 under. Smith is the reigning Australian Boys Amateur champion and was medalist at this year's Australian Amateur.

“To be honest, my feet started shaking,” Matsuyama said. “I was really nervous, but I was happy that I was able to play my game, even under that tremendous pressure.”

It’s been a rapid rise for Matsuyama, who has established himself as one of the world’s top amateurs. He entered the 2010 Asian Amateur ranked No. 544 in the R&A World Amateur Golf Ranking. He gained entry into last year’s field only because of a provision that allocates 10 spots in the field to the host country. Matsuyama was the 10th-ranked amateur in Japan last year, earning his country’s final spot. He began this week ranked No. 4 in the world.

Matsuyama trailed Campbell by five shots at the halfway mark this week, but was bogey-free over the final 36 holes. Matsuyama closed with rounds of 65-67.

He started the final round one shot behind Campbell, but erased that deficit with a birdie on the first hole. Campbell fell out of the lead with a double bogey on the second hole. He rebounded with five birdies Sunday, including at Nos. 16 and 17.

“I didn’t find it easy,” said Campbell, who was fourth in last year’s Asian Amateur. “I couldn’t seem to putt it in a line, where I wanted it to. I made a bit of a run coming in and had a good putt on 16, but overall it wasn’t too bad.”

Lee put pressure on Matsuyama with a final-round 64, which tied the tournament record for low 18-hole score. Matsuyama secured his second consecutive Asian Amateur with a tap-in par on the par-5 18th, though.

“At last year’s Asian Amateur Championship, I was able to enjoy the tournament because it was my first time and I did not have a lot of pressure,” Matsuyama said. “But this time, since I knew that I had to win to play Augusta again, it was extra pressure for me, and it is something I’ve never been through before.

“I think it was because I wanted so badly to go back to play Augusta again. That is why the pressure was there, but I am happy that I managed to get over it.”

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