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WGC HSBC Champions: Matsuyama storms to glory in China


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October 30th 2016, Shanghai, China: Hideki Matsuyama became the second Japanese winner in European Tour history as he romped to a seven-shot victory at the WGC-HSBC Champions.

The 24 year old entered the final day at Sheshan International Golf Club with a three-shot cushion and nobody could get any closer than that as he signed for a 66 and a 23 under par total.

Henrik Stenson claimed a share of second after a closing 65 and that moved him into first place in the Race to Dubai standings entering the Final Series, replacing Danny Willett who endured a disappointing week.

American Daniel Berger also finished at 16 under after a closing 69, a shot ahead of World Number Three Rory McIlroy and another American in Bill Haas.

England's Ross Fisher, 2010 champion Francesco Molinari and American Rickie Fowler were then at 14 under, with Spaniard Sergio Garcia and defending champion Russell Knox completing the top ten two shots further back.

Matsuyama followed in the footsteps of Isao Aoki - who won the European Open 33 years ago - and also became the first Japanese player to win an individual World Golf Championships event.

The victory is a continuation of some remarkable recent form with a win at the Japan Open and a second-placed finish at the CIMB Classic in the previous two weeks. Those results moved him into the top ten in the Official World Golf Ranking this week and he could now go as high as sixth.

"Winning today, I feel has got me closer to being able to compete a lot better in the Major tournaments," he said. "My next goal is, of course, to win a Major and I'm going to do all that I can to prepare well for that.

"I was really nervous at the start of the day but I was able to birdie hole number one. I kind of got myself into the rhythm of the day and after that, it was smooth sailing.

"I really don't know why I played well this week. The last three years, I've had to withdraw twice and I didn't play very well the other year.

"But I got off to a good start. I really didn't make any changes to my golf swing or anything. But I have putted really well these last three weeks, and that's probably the difference. I did play well today. I hit the ball a lot better. But putting was the difference this week."

An opening birdie set the tone for the day and further gains on the fifth and seventh extended his lead to four at the turn. A 30-foot putt on the 13th started a hat-trick of birdies and when he put a stunning approach into the 15th, the rest of the field were eight shots behind.

Closing pars on the final two holes - despite finding the water on the 18th - meant Matsuyama finished the week with 29 birdies as he took his bogey-free run to 45 holes.

Stenson shared the joint lowest round of the day with Matthew Fitzpatrick as he made seven birdies in a blemish-free effort. He made birdies on the second, third, sixth, seventh, 11th and 14th but when Berger made a gain on the 16th, he remained in second on the Race to Dubai.

An excellent putt from the fringe on the last then got him back into a share for second on the week and brought a fist-pumping celebration from the Swede.

Northern Ireland's McIlroy turned in 34 before four birdies in six holes from the 11th catapulted him up the leaderboard and he saw a putt for a 65 lip out on the last.


[L-R] Rory McIlroy (NIR) and Sergio Garcia (ESP) during the final round of WGC HSBC Champions

Haas signed for a 69 with four birdies and a bogey.

Fisher finished in a tie for third here last year and had another productive week in Shanghai, making six birdies and two bogeys on Sunday, including a deflating dropped shot on the par five last.

Italian Molinari made four birdies and two bogeys, with Fowler joining Fisher in signing for a 68.

Garcia ended his week with a 67 while four bogeys in a row from the eighth in a closing 74 ended Scotsman Knox's challenge.

   

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