RBC Heritage

Harbour Town Golf Links



Genesis Invitational

Hideki Matsuyama becomes Asia's most prolific PGA Tour winner with final-round 62 (he made some other history, too)

February 18, 2024
2021317497

Harry How

LOS ANGELES — Hideki Matsuyama has never been the demonstrative type. Opting instead for a robot-like approach to winning golf tournaments. Even after he gets the job done, he's often wondering what he could have done better.

Yet on Sunday at Riviera, despite not even knowing if the job was done yet, Matsuyama gave a hearty fist pump and and even heartier handshake to his caddie, Shota Hayafuji, after he holed his final par putt at the 72nd hole.

Surely, Matsuyama was thrilled with his performance, a final-round 62 that featured a back-nine 30. He stole the tournament from Patrick Cantlay, among others, winning comfortably by three strokes. It was a dominant effort worthy of a demonstrative celebration. At least by Matsuyama standards.

But there was something else at play on the final green. A record Matsuyama had long set his sights on. With the victory, his ninth, Matsuyama is now Asia's most prolific PGA Tour winner, passing South Korea's K.J. Choi, who has owned that record since his most recent PGA Tour win, the 2011 Players Championship.

"Reaching nine wins was one of my big goals, passing K.J. Choi," Matsuyama said through his translator, Ken Hirai. "After my eighth win I've been struggling with my back injury. There were a lot of times where I felt, you know, I was never going to win again. I struggled reaching the top 10, but I'm really happy that I was able to win today."

It's hard to believe given Matsuyama has churned out top 10s like a machine his entire career, but before Sunday, his last top-10 finish came at the Players Championship last March. His 20 starts in between were hardly poor, the former Masters champion collecting seven top-20 finishes in that span. But between not seriously contending and his injury, frustrations were clearly setting in.

Matsuyama later cleared up that it was actually his neck, not his back, that had been causing him problems for quite some time.

"First of all, to clear the information, it's been my neck that's been hurting," he said. "It's been really something that's been bothering for long time. Since the start of this year, it's been getting better, a lot better. There's no—it's stress free when I'm sleeping, too, so I think I had this feeling of I can do something special maybe this year."

A signature event win at Riviera is already as special as it gets. And that came with a bit of history, too. Matsuyama has now joined an impressive list of 14 players who have won at both Riviera and Augusta National, a list that includes last year's winner Jon Rahm as well as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Nick Faldo, Tom Watson and Ben Hogan, among others.

"Never thought about that before," Matsuyama said. "So I'll think about it."

Matsuyama has thought about winning at Riviera before, though. He said it was one of his goals ever since he became a professional. It holds special meaning to him as Matsuyama knows the club's owner, Noboru Watanabe, who is also from Japan.

Then there's the fact that this tournament is now hosted by Tiger Woods, making it extra special to Matsuyama. Unfortunately, Woods was not on hand on Sunday to hand Matsuyama the trophy, though he did congratulate him on Twitter.

"To win in this tournament was one of my goals ever since I became pro," he said. "After Tiger being the host, that goal became a lot more bigger. A little disappointed that I wasn't able to take a picture with Tiger today."