PGA Tour

Matsuyama soars to Challenge lead on eagle wings

2016-12-04 06:33
hideki matsuyama
Hideki Matsuyama (Getty Images)

Nassau - Hideki Matsuyama, seeking his fourth title in the past two months, fired a seven-under par 65 on Saturday to seize a seven-stroke lead after the third round of the Hero World Challenge.

The 24-year-old Japanese standout eagled the par-4 seventh, his blast from the fairway taking a single bounce before dropping into the cup, and added seven birdies against two bogeys in the round.

"The eagle at seven was huge," Matsuyama said. "I played well. Glad to get the score in I did.

"I feel kind of lucky up until now."

Matsuyama stood on 19-under par 197 after 54 holes at the 18-player invitational event hosted by Tiger Woods, who is making his comeback this week after a 16-month back injury layoff.

"Hideki is just playing unbelievable golf," Woods said. "Hideki is just putting it on us. He's at 19 now so he has built a nice cushion."

Woods, a 14-time major champion, recalled first playing alongside Matsuyama at the 2013 British Open at Muirfield.

"Was very impressed," Woods said. "This kid can really move the golf ball and thinks his way around the golf course.

"It's going to pay off."

Matsuyama hopes it pays off with another triumph at the elite Bahamas event after victories in October at the Japan Open and World Golf Championships HSBC Champions and last month at the Taiheiyo Masters in Japan.

"I can't really think about the lead because everyone in the field can shoot eight or nine under," Matsuyama said. "So I just have to keep my head down, keep grinding and do the best I can."

That respect includes concern that Woods could make up an 11-stroke deficit even in only his fourth comeback round.

"Only Tiger could take a year and a half off and put up the numbers he's putting up this week," Matsuyama said. "I don't care how many strokes I'm leading over him, I still worry about him, fear him.

"I'm just going to have to try my best tomorrow."

But Matsuyama, a career-best sixth in the rankings, dreams of claiming the world number one spot once held by Woods.

"It's not that I haven't thought about it, but it's going to take a lot of wins," he said. "Hopefully tomorrow will be one of them."

Matsuyama opened with a birdie and added others at the par-5 third and sixth holes before his eagle, hit with a 60-degree wedge from 80 yards after a 3-iron layup off the tee.

He followed with a bogey but birdied the par-5 11th and added birdies at the 14th and par-5 15th, then answered a bogey at 16 with a birdie at the par-3 17th.

"I'm not putting my best, but there are a lot of 18-, 20-footers finding the hole and that has really helped," Matsuyama said.

Matsuyama gave some credit for his hot streak to a putting tip from Japanese rival Hiroshi Iwata, saying, "Since then it has kind of fallen into place and improving each week."

Read more on:    pga tour  |  hero world challenge  |  tiger woods  |  golf
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