SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Hideki Matsuyama was the last man standing at golf’s biggest party - again.
“I just had faith and believed that my chance would come again, and I just waited and waited, had patience,” Matsuyama said. “Finally, that last one went in.”
Matsuyama closed with a 5-under 66, parring the final three holes to match Simpson at 17-under 267. On the par-4 18th in regulation, Matsuyama’s 20-foot birdie try to win in regulation stopped just short.
“I don’t know how it stayed out,” Matsuyama said. “But you can’t be short on a putt like that.”
Simpson birdied three of the last four for a 64, the best round of the day.
“To shoot 7 under on Sunday, birdieing 17 and 18 is a great feeling, knowing I had to do it,” Simpson said. “But Hideki is a great player, obviously. I knew he’d be a tough competitor in the playoff. I wish I could have a couple of putts back and hit them a little harder.”
The tournament drew an estimated 58,654 fans Sunday to break the weekly record with 655,434. The previous mark of 618,365 was set last year. A record 204,906 packed the grounds Saturday.
Matsuyama has thrived in the party atmosphere, tying for fourth in 2014 and tying for second in 2015 before winning the last two years.
“There’s nothing like it in golf,” Matsuyama said. “Playing in front of the number of fans and gallery this past week, great motivation. I just try to have fun with it, and at the same time, keep my focus.”
Matsuyama and Simpson took advantage of third-round leader Byeong Hun An’s collapse. Three strokes ahead of Matsuyama and four ahead of Simpson with nine holes left, An bogeyed Nos. 10 and 11 and closed with two more on 17 and 18. The South Korean player had a 73 to finish sixth at 14 under.
“Just didn’t work out today,” An said.
Matsuyama won his second PGA Tour title of the season and fourth overall. He has won five worldwide events in the last 3 1/2 months, also taking the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, two tournaments in Japan and Tiger Woods’ unofficial Hero World Challenge.
“It’s been a good run,” Matsuyama said. “I’m going to ride it as long as I can.”
He becomes the sixth player to successfully defend a title in the event and the first to do it at TPC Scottsdale. The other five are Hall of Famers Ben Hogan (1946-47), Jimmy Demaret (1949-50), Lloyd Mangrum (1952-53), Arnold Palmer (1961-63) and Johnny Miller (1974-75).
Matsuyama broke a tie with Shigeki Maruyama for the most victories by a Japanese player, and became the first to win playoffs in an event two straight years since Ernie Els in the Sony Open in Hawaii in 2003-04.
Matsuyama and Simpson matched pars on the first three extra holes, playing the 18th twice and the par-4 10th before heading to 17. Simpson’s drive on the 332-yard hole ended up on the right edge of the green, with a bunker blocking his path to the back pin position.
“That pin is so hard,” Simpson said. “That is the one place you can’t really be.”
Instead of trying to hit over the bunker, he putted and left himself a 25-footer that burned the right edge.
Louis Oosthuizen finished a stroke back after a 65. The South African birdied Nos. 14, 15 and 17, then hit in the right bunker on 18 and scrambled to save par.
“I will take a lot out of this week, especially on putting,” Oosthuizen said.
Fowler also shot a 65 to match J.J. Spaun (67) at 15 under.
Phil Mickelson tied for 16th at 10 under after a 71. He made a run with four front-nine birdies, then played the back nine in 4 over with a double bogey on 17, four bogeys and two birdies. The 46-year-old former Arizona State star played his 100th round in the event he won in 1996, 2005 and 2013.
“It was a disappointing way to finish it, but it’s very encouraging with the way I have been playing,” Mickelson said. “And the way I got myself into contention there with nine holes to go was fun.”
Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.