SHANGHAI (AP) — Hideki Matsuyama of Japan never gave anyone a chance Sunday, closing with a 6-under 66 to win the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions and become the first Asian winner in the 18 years of the WGCs.
It was only fitting that Matsuyama won the WGC billed as “Asia’s major.”
The 24-year-old Matsuyama hit his second shot into the water on the par-5 18th hole and still finished with a par, holing an 18-foot putt. That gave him a seven-shot victory over The Open Championship winner Henrik Stenson (65) and Daniel Berger (69).
It was the largest margin of victory at the HSBC Champions, and the largest in a WGC since Tiger Woods won by seven in the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Starting the final round with a three-shot lead, Matsuyama hit his approach into 4 feet for birdie and was on his way. His only difficult moment came at the par-3 fourth hole when he went over the green and his chip came out soft, stopping some 15 feet short of the cup. Berger had a 10-foot birdie attempt, setting up the potential for a two-shot swing that would have cut the lead to two shots.
Matsuyama holed the putt, then hit an approach up the hill to 4 feet on the next hole for birdie. He poured it on along the back nine with a 35-foot birdie putt on the 13th, a two-putt birdie on the par-5 14th hole and then another strong approach out of the rough to the tough 15th that settled 3 feet away.
He played his final 45 holes at Sheshan International without a bogey. Matsuyama finished at 23-under 265, one shot away from the tournament record set three years ago by Dustin Johnson.
It was the 10th career victory for Matsuyama, who goes to a career-best No. 6 in the world ranking and moves to No. 1 in the early FedExCup race.
In the last three weeks since he finished his best PGA TOUR season with fifth place at the TOUR Championship, Matsuyama won the Japan Open, was runner-up in Malaysia to Justin Thomas in the CIMB Classic, and then won his biggest tournament yet.
“Hideki played just unbelievable and it was a pleasure to watch. You can learn a lot from watching Hideki play,” Berger said. “He’s struck it well. He’s putted well. He’s chipped well. He’s done everything well, and that’s why he’s won by so many.”
Defending champion Russell Knox, playing in the final group with Matsuyama and Berger, couldn’t match his birdies and then fell far behind trying to push it. Knox finished the front nine with two bogeys and started the back nine with a pair of bogeys. He closed with a 74 and tied for ninth.
Knox isn’t sure it would have mattered the way Matsuyama was playing.
“He was brilliant,” he said. “No weaknesses the last two days. He drove the ball well and far, and his iron play was very good. And he made it look very easy.”
Knox played in the final group in both tournaments in Asia. Asked his immediate plans, he smiled and said, “Take a week off and give my trophy to Hideki.”
Rory McIlroy closed with a 66 to share fourth with Bill Haas (69).