Hideki Matsuyama defeats Rickie Fowler in Phoenix playoff
Hideki Matsuyama defeated Rickie Fowler on Sunday in a playoff at the Waste Management Phoenix Open to claim his second PGA Tour win.
For most of Sunday, it appeared that it was Fowler’s day. 54-hole leader Danny Lee was three up when the day started, but that quickly evaporated and as he made the turn, it was clear that he wasn’t going to be getting his second career PGA Tour win. Harris English, playing in the group ahead of Fowler, Lee and Matsuyama, was tied for the lead on the back nine, but a bogey on the par-3 16th after going long derailed his chances as well. Much like his win in Abu Dhabi a few weeks ago, it seemed like Fowler was cruising thanks to his wedges. He chipped in on 10:
That gave him the outright lead, and he went two up on the 13th after getting this chip to tap-in distance.
Fowler had a short birdie putt on the 16th to extend his lead over Matsuyama to three, but he missed and that’s when it started to come undone. He approached the drivable par-4 17th with his two shot lead intact, and with the pin in the front of the green, he stayed aggressive and pulled driver.
After going in the water, Fowler would miss the par putt as well and when Matsuyama made birdie, the lead was gone as the two headed to the 18th. Both made birdie, and went back to the tee to start the playoff.
They were all square after three holes of the playoff, and they headed back to 17 where Fowler had honours on the tee.
Fowler went in the water again, this time hitting the left side of the pond and when he missed the par putt, Matsuyama was able to two putt for par to win his second PGA Tour title.
- 1. Hideki Matsuyama -14 *wins in playoff*
- 2. Rickie Fowler -14
- 3. Harris English -12
- 4. Danny Lee -11
- 5. Boo Weekley -10
What The Win Means For Matsuyama
You have every reason to be bullish on Matsuyama. Maybe not as bullish as I was in suggesting that he would win a major before Jordan Spieth, but bullish nonetheless. What you saw this week is a prime example of what can happen when Matsuyama is just a little warm with the putter. When you look at the very best players in the world, and Matsuyama is in that group, you won’t find a larger discrepancy in ability when it comes to facets of their game than how good of a ball striker he is versus how bad he is on the greens.
That was exceedingly evident in his last start when he missed the cut at Torrey Pines with an atrocious -1.883 strokes gained putting. For reference, Lucas Glover finished dead last in strokes gained putting last year with a -1.352, so you can see how bad Matsuyama was at Torrey, but this week, he was a +.420. That’s not Jordan Spieth level hot, but when you combine that kind of positive result with how good he is from tee to green, he becomes someone who is very difficult to beat.
- Earns $1,170,000 for the week.
- Moves from 19th to 12th in the Official World Golf Rankings.
- Moves into 10th place in the FedEx Cup.
Bubba hates this tournament…now he loves it!
So, a lot was made about Bubba Watson’s comments earlier in the week about how he didn’t like the tournament and that he was only here because his sponsors wanted him there. Bubba later “clarified” his remarks on Twitter, likely at the urging of those same sponsors, wanting to focus more of his energy on the changes to the course over the past few years than the tournament itself.
Here’s the thing: Bubba is a lightning rod for controversy, especially on Golf Twitter, but in a game where the players tend to shy away from saying what’s on their mind, I didn’t really have a problem at all with Bubba being honest, which is a point Brendan Porath made at SB Nation as well. We can’t have it both ways where we want players to speak their minds and then rip into them when they do. It sucks that he didn’t own it though because it’s pretty obvious that he wouldn’t play in Phoenix if he didn’t have sponsor obligations.
Ben Crane is really, really slow
I know, I know. That headline is hardly breaking news, but during Friday’s second round, Crane may have taken things to a whole new level. On the 11th hole, he drove his ball into the right rough and ended up behind a tree that had a few openings, but especially considering where Crane was on the leaderboard at the time, it made absolutely no sense to try and take anything on. This is what it looked like:
David Feherty mentioned on the air that Crane isn’t the fastest of players (“one of those guys that takes an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes”), but in this situation you have to cut him a little bit of slack and I agree that a little lenience from the officials makes some sense. So, Crane analyzed his options and eventually thought better of going through the tree, opting to pitch out left. The problem is that it took him two and a half minutes from the time Golf Channel showed him on the broadcast to him actually striking the ball, and you have to think that he was there for at least a little longer than that prior to being shown on the air. When you look at some of the things that new commissioner Keith Pelley is doing on the European Tour to combat slow play, it makes you think what exactly it’s going to take for Tim Finchem and the PGA Tour to wake up and do something.
Don’t Hit It There
- Notables to miss the cut: Steve Stricker, Kevin Streelman, Justin Thomas, Hunter Mahan, Tony Finau, Jason Dufner, Graham DeLaet, Padraig Harrington, Fabian Gomez, Ian Poulter, Smylie Kaufman.
- On Rickie taking driver in regulation on 17: Maybe you have to account for some adrenaline, but I have no problem with him taking driver if he thought it was the right club. Being an aggressive player is what got him to the place he’s in, so even though the result wasn’t what he wanted, I don’t think you can fault the process.
- Injury report:
- Alex Cejka (neck) withdrew prior to the start of the third round. He’s currently scheduled to play next week at Pebble Beach.
- Kyle Reifers (???) withdrew prior to the restart of the second round. He was nowhere near the cut and only had one hole left before the WD, so it’s a little strange. He’s not currently scheduled for next week.
- Carl Pettersson (wrist) withdrew during the second round after being 3-over through five. He is currently scheduled next for Pebble.
- Erik Compton (???) withdrew during the first round after being 4-over through twelve. He’s not currently scheduled for next week.
- I never understand why this tournament isn’t changed to a Wednesday-Saturday or a Friday-Monday event. With it being Super Bowl Sunday, there are no eyes on it despite a great finish like Rickie and Hideki in a playoff. Not even a Tiger/Phil/Rory/Jordan playoff would be enough to change that.
- On Saturday, NBC devoted nearly three minutes to a “Jake’s Takes” segment. Jacobsen’s band, Jake Trout and the Ball Washers (yes, that’s their name), put together an ode to the 16th hole and while we’re not talking “FedEx Cup Rap” level bad, I think I can speak for golf fans when I say that they would rather have watched Rickie Fowler and the other leaders play, you know, actual golf instead of this music video. iTunes sale proceeds are going to charity though, and that’s cool but the best part of the video is when Bubba appears, and he lip syncs “It’s no time to meltdown”, in the absolute height of irony.
- It was fantastic to have Feherty back.
Pebble! Let’s hope that it all goes a little better than last year.