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Hideki Matsuyama wins Phoenix title in playoff

By Mike Tulumello, The Sports Xchange
Hideki Matsuyama wins Phoenix title in playoff
Japan's Hideki Matsuyama. Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Hideki Matsuyama earned a big PGA Tour win, while Rickie Fowler was left with big-time regrets.

In a dramatic four-hole playoff, Matsuyama edged Fowler on Sunday to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

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Fowler, using a 3-wood, drove his tee shot at the short, par-4 17th hole left into the water and never recovered. It was the same hole that Fowler botched with a driver in regulation, a misstep that sent the tournament to a playoff in the first place.

Fowler chipped within about 10 feet but missed the putt for a bogey in the playoff. Matsuyama recorded a par to claim his second PGA Tour win.

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He did so in a tournament that set the world record for attendance, though he acknowledged "probably 99 percent" of the galleries were cheering for Fowler, not for him.

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"What a great experience," Matsuyama, the world's No. 19 player entering the tournament, said through an interpreter.

"They were for Rickie, weren't they? ... But that gave me the motivation to go out and do it and win."

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Matsuyama, 23, asked about the dominance of other great young players such as Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Fowler, said, "Those four have set the bar so high. It motivates me to practice harder and practice more to keep up with them."

Both Matsuyama and Fowler shot 4-under-par 67 in regulation on Sunday at TPC Scottsdale's Stadium Course to finish at 14-under 270.

"This one hurts," Fowler said. "I felt like I had it."

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Then, noting the support he had for what would have been his fourth PGA Tour win, his voice choked with emotion.

"The hard part is having all my friends and family, my grandpa and my dad, who haven't seen me win. ... I'll be all right."

After both players recorded a par on the first playoff hole, the par-4 18th, they went back to the tee box for their third straight go at No. 18 (counting the final hole of regulation). Both ended up just beyond 14 feet from the hole after their first two shots.

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Fowler rolled in his putt, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Then Matsuyama matched him.

The players then moved to the par-4 10th hole, where Fowler drove his tee shot far right into the rough. He managed to get within 60 feet after his second shot, within 12 after a chip.

He rolled it in, forcing a fourth playoff hole.

In regulation, Fowler shot 1 under par on the front nine, then birdied the par-4 10th and par-5 13th to move to 13 under for the tournament.

He seemingly did much to wrap up the win by sticking his second shot on the par-5 15th over the water and onto the green. His easy birdie put him at 14 under and gave him a two-shot lead.

However, Fowler inexplicably hit driver on the short, 317-yard, par-4 17th hole and knocked the ball over the green and into the water.

"You usually don't expect it to hit on a downslope and go 360," he said.

After the penalty, he settled for a bogey. Matsuyama took advantage, putting his tee shot short of the green and holing an easy birdie.

The two-shot swing meant the two were tied heading into the 18th hole.

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"After the 15th hole, it didn't look very good," Matsuyama said. "Then Rickie opened the door for me, and I was able to walk through it."

Fowler's drive on No. 18, amazingly, skipped twice in the sand left of the fairway, but somehow rolled to a stop in the fairway, 95 yards from the hole. His approach shot bounced 9 feet behind the flag.

Matsuyama then calmly rolled in an 18-footer for birdie, putting the pressure on Fowler to force the tournament into a playoff.

Fowler came through, rolling the putt inside the right edge.

Harris English shot a 66 and finished third at 12-under 272.

Third-round leader Danny Lee, who came into Sunday at 13 under par, dropped three strokes on his front nine. That opened the door for crowd favorite Phil Mickelson, who was five strokes behind Lee to start the round, to make a run at the leaders.

However, Mickelson shot 1 over par on his front nine and never challenged for the lead. He finished even at 71, good for a tie for 11th place at 8-under 276.

Lee ended up shooting a 73 and finished fourth at 11-under 273.

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Boo Weekley was fifth. He shot 70 to finish fifth at 10-under 274.

Bubba Watson put on a charge, shooting 66 to finish at 7-under 277, tied for 14th.

NOTES: Hideki Matsuyama's only other PGA Tour win also came in a playoff in the 2014 Memorial. ... The playoff was the longest at TPC Scottsdale. ... A crowd listed at 65,330 pushed the week's attendance to a PGA Tour record of 618,365. That number broke the attendance record set in Scottsdale last year at 564,368. The largest single-day crowd in the history of golf attended Saturday's third round when the attendance was listed at 201,003. The Phoenix Open annually attracts the largest crowds in the world on a course that is built for huge numbers of spectators.

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