• Kyodo

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Hideki Matsuyama moved up one place to third in the latest world rankings list released Sunday, the highest placing ever achieved by a Japanese male golfer.

Matsuyama, who finished in a tie for 22nd at the Players Championship on Sunday, overtook Australia’s Jason Day in the rankings, while the top two players remained unchanged with Dustin Johnson of the United States at No. 1 and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland in second.

The 25-year-old Ehime Prefecture native bettered Tsuneyuki Nakajima, who reached the fourth rank in 1987, a year before his best performance on the PGA Tour — a third at the Players Championship.

“It’s an amazing achievement and I’m happy too,” Nakajima said. “I think it’s natural given his ability. I hope he aims for the top rank and also fulfills his target of winning a major tournament.”

Japan Golf Tour Organization chairman Isao Aoki was also hopeful of Matsuyama lifting his first major trophy in the near future.

“I think it will be soon,” said the 74-year-old Aoki, the oldest player on the JGTO tour. “It’s something we should really be pleased about. I believe he came this far because he kept building (on his experience).

“I think he can get even more confidence in his own ability.”

Female golfer Ai Miyazato was the first Japanese to take the world No. 1 spot, in 2010.

Matsuyama won two of his first five tournaments of the season while finishing second in two others. He then defended his Phoenix Open title in a four-hole playoff in February.

He has struggled to recapture his early-season form since missing the cut in the Genesis Open two weeks later, with his best performance in the next six events, including the Players Championship, being an 11th-place finish at the Masters in April.

But his tenacity has so far seen him missing the cut just twice the whole season and helped him pass Day, whose form has dipped recently.

After shooting 72-71-76 in the first three rounds of the May 11-14 Players Championship in Florida, Matsuyama carded five birdies and an eagle against four bogeys for a final-round 69. He said his play over the final 18 holes left him feeling satisfied that he ended on a good note, and that he had found his game again.

He is next scheduled to compete in the May 25-28 Dean and Deluca Invitational in Texas.

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