Triumphant homecoming for Matsuyama


America-bound Hideki Matsuyama earned his third JGTO tournament title as a pro on Sunday, when he triumphed on the second playoff hole to win the Fujisankei Classic.

The 21-year-old university student, who started the day with a four-stroke lead, bogeyed the 18th hole to fall into a three-way tie after 72 holes at 9-under-par 275. Matsuyama, who turned pro in March, was playing in his first tournament in Japan since July 7.

“My form was bad all day until there was only the playoff left, and then things got better,” said Matsuyama, who was asked if his concentration improved after regulation.

“I felt calm. When it came down to either winning or losing, I was able to turn it around.”

Hideto Tanihara, who birdied the 18th in regulation, and South Korean Park Sung Joon, the winner of last weekend’s KBC Augusta pulled even with Matsuyama on the final hole to force a playoff.

With the playoff taking place on the 18th, Matsuyama saw his birdie putt lip out on the first hole as all three players made par at Fujizakura Country Club in Yamanashi Prefecture.

The second time around on the par-4 hole, Matsuyama was under the gun, hitting his tee shot into a fairway bunker. After his rivals had already found the green with their second shots, Matsuyama hit a superb shot to reach the green. The youngster, who will begin playing on the U.S. PGA tour from October after top-10 finishes at this year’s U.S. and British Opens, then sank his birdie putt.

Park misread the line on his own short birdie putt and had to settle for par and a tie for second with Tanihara, the 2007 champion here.