5 Things: Matsuyama perseveres; Watson wanes; more
Sunday, June 1, 2014
DUBLIN, Ohio – It was wild and wacky down the stretch at the Memorial Tournament on Sunday. Kevin Na posted an 8-under 64 and had to wait two hours before learning that he would be in a playoff with Hideki Matsuyama.
During those two hours Bubba Watson and Adam Scott self-destructed and Matsuyama had to birdie the 18th hole for the fourth consecutive time to finish at 13 under with Na.
In the end it was Matsuyama who made all the right moves, with the exception of breaking his driver on the ground in anger on the 72nd hole – but it didn’t matter as the two-time Asian Amateur Champion won his first time on the PGA Tour. Here are 5 Things to know from Sunday at Muirfield Village:
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1. 13TH IN THE WORLD: Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama did a lot right and some wrong, but in the end it was a 10-footer for par on the first playoff hole that closed out Kevin Na and gave the 22-year-old his first win on U.S. soil.
“To win my first PGA Tour event is enough, but to win it here at Mr. Nicklaus' course, it really gives me a lot of confidence now going on,” Matsuyama said through an interpreter. “And hopefully I'll be able to use this week as a stepping stone to further my career.
Matsuyama struggled down the stretch with a double bogey on the par-3 16th hole after hitting his tee shot in the water; he lost his lead and fell into a tie with Na and Watson.
Matsuyama would make another mistake on the 17th hole, falling one shot behind and it was only after a fortunate bounce off a tree in the right rough on the 18th hole in regulation that Matsuyama found the fairway.
Matsuyama knew if he could make a record fourth birdie on the 18th hole for the week, he would be in a playoff. From 5 feet, he drained the 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.”
Matsuyama is projected to move up the OWGR to a projected 13th, but more importantly is in position to make history in two weeks.
“One of my goals since I was a little guy was to win on the U.S. PGA Tour,” Matsuyama said. “And now that I've done that, my next goal now would be to win one of the four majors.”
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2. LAST TIME I LOST, I DID OK: Bubba Watson got to the 15-under mark and felt that would have been good enough to win his third event of the 2014 season – and he was correct, if he could have stayed there.
Unfortunately for Watson he was on the 13th hole when he reached 15 under and had five more holes left. Over those five, Watson was 3-over and missed out on the playoff by a shot.
“I made one bad decision,” Watson said of hitting driver over the right trees on the par-5 15th hole and blocking it out of bounds. “If I hit the 4‑wood off the tee instead of the driver on the par 5, we make five and we win by one. But I made a double, so we lost by one.”
Watson was a bit matter-of-fact after the loss, but that is how Watson has matured over the past couple of years and he took this loss in stride.
Watson didn’t believe his swing became a little loose as it looked over the last couple of holes and said the loss was tied more to a mental mistake, or as Watson said, “trying to be a hero.”
Like others who leave Muirfield Village on Sunday, Watson knows what could have been and yet also knows what’s in front of him: three majors and the FedEx Cup playoffs as he is playing some of he best golf he has played in years.
“My focus, my abilities are fine,” Watson said. “It's my mindset. If I can get my mindset and just stay focused on what I'm doing. For me it's very hard to stay focused. So that's why I keep my head down. I'm never mad; I just keep my head down so I stay focused on what I'm doing.”
Obviously the plan has been working this year with Watson.
As he was leaving with his wife Angie and son Caleb, Watson turned and said “Last time I lost a tournament I did OK.”
Watson finished T-2 at the WGC Cadillac Championship and two tournaments later won his second green jacket.
And by the way, Watson moved to No. 3 in the world ahead of Tiger Woods.
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3. OFF TO PINEHURST: Phil Mickelson will leave the FBI, SEC and Muirfield Village behind after a final round, 1-over 73 and a T-50.
It has been nothing if not a difficult week for Lefty, not shooting one round in the 60s and then of course the feeding frenzy that was his questioning over possible insider trading.
“From a golf standpoint, it wasn't a bad week, as far as I started to hit the ball well,” Mickelson said. “And I struggled a little bit in some areas. That 16th hole, man, that hole has got my number.”
It’s hard to believe, but Mickelson was 5 over on the par-3 16th hole. At only 190 to 200 yards depending on the round, the fact that Mickelson not only can’t negotiate the hole, but also readily admits the problem is bizarre, but it’s not the only hole that Mickelson has issues with.
“Six at Bay Hill,” Mickelson said of the other hole that gives him fits. “That's the reason I don't go back. I can't play the sixth hole at Bay Hill. It's a big circular lake, and it's basically out of bounds. You have to re-hit it if you go in it. And usually there's right‑to‑left wind, which isn't my favorite. Fore left is usually my call sign. And I just can't figure out a way to play that hole.”
Luckily only one hole at Pinehurst has water and its not in play for anyone playing in the U.S. Open in two weeks.
But Mickelson’s next event is the FedEx St. Jude Classic and by his own admission he needs to get in the hunt in Memphis to properly prepare himself for Pinehurst.
“Next week is when I have to put it together and play well,” Mickelson said. “If I can play well, get in contention, it will give me some momentum for the Open. That's what I need to do.”
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4. STILL NO. 1: Adam Scott was on the cusp of a Colonial/Memorial double after a birdie on the par-5 11th hole moving him to 14 under and tied for the lead, but the finish was not Scott like – double bogey, birdie, bogey, bogey, bogey for a 39 on the back nine – yielding an unhappy 71 and a T-4 finish with Chris Kirk.
“I think the one shot that I didn't like today was on the 12th and may or may not have been the start of a bad run,” Scott said of his tee shot that found the water. “If you hit it on the green there and make two putts, you never know what's going to happen, keeps that solid round going.“
The tee shot on the 12th hole was into a left-to-right wind, a wind that Scott said he is working to play more effectively and a shot he needs to work on.
But as Scott leaves Columbus he is excited about his game if not disappointed about Sunday’s result.
“I'm playing good,” Scott said. “I know that. I'm not going to try and go searching for answers over this one. “
Scott, like Mickelson, is off to Pinehurst to scout out the newly renovated Crenshaw/Coore course over the next couple of days.
“I think I've got good momentum going into the major, absolutely,” Scott said. “I've just brought my game exactly where I want it to be. I've contended the last two weeks. That's a good feeling.”
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5. FINDING SOME RHYTHM: Steve Stricker has had a difficult 2014 season. His brother was in need of a liver transplant. The weather in Wisconsin has been difficult to play in. And during about a month’s period of time, he tried to make a change to new equipment that didn’t fit his swing.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Wisconsin native found some keys on the range and the putting green that produced his first top 10 of 2014, a T-6 with Ben Curtis.
“I was just telling Jimmy (Johnson, Stricker’s caddie) coming down 18, I did a lot of good things but I did some really poor things this week, too,” Stricker said after a final-round 68. “Hit some wild shots at times, but hung in there nicely and putted poorly at times and then I putted really well today. So there were some ups and downs along the way, but overall it was a good week of preparation and playing and seeing how I play under the gun.”
It was only Stricker’s sixth event of the season, but with a game that is generally suited for U.S. Open venues the finish this week was important for Stricker to ride into Pinehurst.