Hideki Matsuyama has played the Waste Management Phoenix Open four times in his career -- each of the last four years. In that span, he now has two wins and two top-five finishes. Matsuyama took down Webb Simpson in a four-hole playoff with a birdie on the final hole, and he now has half as many trophies as golfers who have beaten him at TPC Scottsdale.
• Brooks Koepka— Jamie Kennedy (@jamierkennedy) February 5, 2017
• Bubba Watson
• Graham DeLaet
• Kevin Stadler
Only players (out of 528) that have beaten Matsuyama in Phoenix since 2013.
After a thrilling 18 holes of regulation that saw both golfers get to 17 under (Simpson shot a 64, Matsuyama a 66), neither golfer could get anything going in the playoff. Six drama-filled pars between them in the first three holes as both players left birdie putts for the win short. Then, on the fourth playoff hole (the drivable 17th on the course), Simpson caught a bad break.
He banged a drive onto the green but it rolled to the back right. The pin was on the back left. The green had a curved posterior, though, and Simpson did not have a straight line to putt. He might have been better off chipping over the sand and back edge of the green rather than putting. Instead he left himself a lengthy birdie putt with Matsuyama already staring at a 12-foot birdie of his own.
"This is the dreaded spot on 17 with this pin," Simpson lamented to Dottie Pepper of CBS Sports. "I actually thought I made the birdie putt." He almost did. The putt grazed the right edge but would not fall.
That left the door open for Matsuyama's second-straight Phoenix Open win. He found the bottom of the cup, and he knew it even before it fell. For somebody who has struggled with the flat stick over the course of his career, Matsuyama was a picture of perfection in the playoff. He hit a tough five-footer for par on the hole before and looked anything but unconfident.
"It was a struggle, especially that playoff, but I'm very happy to win," Matsuyama told Peter Kostis of CBS Sports. "I had faith and believe there was going to be a chance to win it. And I made it. I'm going to keep grinding."
The duo actually had eerily similar days. Both played bogey free. Both made birdie at No. 15 in regulation. Both made eagle at the par-5 third hole. It was a great show on a day when some monstrous names went low.
"I'm thrilled to death with the state of the game," said Simpson, who noted that he hadn't contended since the Dean & DeLuca Invitational last year. "Hideki is a great player. I knew he was going to be a tough competitor in the playoff. It's been a while since I've been in contention. Hat's off to him. He's a great player."
With the win, Matsuyama has passed Shigeki Maruyama with the most wins by any Japanese player in PGA Tour history. Oh yeah, and he's 24 years old. The win is officially Matsuyama's second on the PGA Tour season (he and Justin Thomas have won five of the 12 PGA Tour events so far this season), but he also took the Hero World Challenge in December and twice in Japan at the end of last year. He is riding an all-time heater.
Hideki Matsuyama is the first player ever from Japan to win 4 times on the PGA Tour.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) February 5, 2017
And there seems to be no sign of stopping. Grade: A+
Here are our grades for the rest of the Phoenix Open.
Phil Mickelson (T16): Mickelson faded coming home with a 40 on Sunday after getting within striking distance of the lead early in the day. He was getting nervous about a couple of the prop bets he'd plopped down on the Super Bowl, no doubt, and trying to rush it to the clubhouse to clear things up.
I'm kidding of course, but these last three weeks have told us a lot about Mickelson. He finished an impressive T6 in birdies in Phoenix where he's won twice. He's been in semi-contention in the last three tournaments which bodes well for his precious Augusta here in two months.
"I love playing here," said Mickelson. "I played the first 63 holes really well. I was excited, going to the back side having an opportunity to win the golf tournament with a good back nine. Unfortunately after hitting good drives on 10, 11, I made bogeys on both of those holes. It just killed my momentum. I had a hard time picking it back up. It was a disappointing way to finish it, but it's very encouraging with the way I have been playing. And the way I got myself into contention there with nine holes to go was fun." Grade: B+
Jordan Spieth (T9): Spieth really got it going on Friday as he went out in 31 and looked destined for something in the low 60s. But two bogeys and a double coming in took him out of contention for good despite a solid 67-67 weekend. Spieth has reached the point of his career where if he finishes outside the top 10, it's more of an eyebrow-raiser than if he wins.
The bad -- very bad -- news for everyone else is that Spieth is locked in with his irons right now. He finished No. 2 in the field this week in strokes gained on approach shots (and has been incredibly efficient all season on his approaches). He was 44th in putting. I'm less concerned about him finding his putting stroke eventually than I would be if he was missing on his approaches. Grade: A-
Rickie Fowler (T4): Fowler closed like this was the 2015 Players Championship all over again. Remember that? Fowler played the final four holes in 5 under and won in a playoff. This year in Phoenix he played the final six in a thrilling 4 under and notched his second-straight top-five finish. It was good to see him mix it up on the weekend after a ho-hum start to 2017.
"Game is good right now," said Fowler. "It was nice this week. Didn't make very many mistakes. Two bogeys over the four days, which is nice. I felt like I managed my game well. [Caddie] Joe [Skovron] and I communicated well. Got through the week very good. Definitely looking forward to going from here and on to the coming tournaments." Grade: A