Monday Finish: Twice the wins
In the final round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama birdies the last three holes for a sizzling 61 and a dominant five-stroke victory over runner-up Zach Johnson. Meanwhile, Chris Stroud racks up 20 points in the final round to cop his first PGA TOUR win at the Stableford-scoring Barracuda Championship. Welcome to the Monday Finish, where Matsuyama, 25, ties the course record at Firestone South for his third win this season; and Stroud, 35, collects his first TOUR win in 290 starts. FIVE OBSERVATIONS 1. Matsuyama is on the way to becoming Japan’s first truly global star. Nine countries were represented in the top 12 on the Bridgestone leaderboard, but Matsuyama’s clubs spoke loudest and Japan was on top. After starting the day three shots back, he made eagle at the par-5 second hole and kept going from there, hitting the afterburners to assure his third win this season and fifth overall in the 100th TOUR start of his career. He extended his lead as the Japanese player with the most wins on TOUR, a record he already held over Shigeki Maruyama (three). 2. The FedExCup may require math, but Matsuyama knows all too well that it requires something else, too: at least one more trophy. “In order to win the FedExCup, you have to win one of the playoff tournaments,” said Matsuyama, who moved from third to first in the FedExCup points standings with the victory in Ohio. “And hopefully I can do that and keep the momentum going.” It would be tough to have any more momentum than he currently has; his 61 marked the best final-round performance by a winner in the history of the WGCs—by three shots. 3. Although there have now been 25 wins (in 39 events) by a player in his 20s on TOUR this season, Rory McIlroy, 28, has accounted for none of them. Still, McIlroy, who tied for fifth, did not sound terribly despondent after notching his sixth top-10 this season. “I thought I saw some improvements in my game from when I got here on Wednesday,” he said. “Thought my wedge play got a little bit better as the week went on. Putted pretty well, even when I missed putts out there, they were scaring the hole, so that was good. Drove the ball well.” Yeah, you could say that. McIlroy hit 52 of 56 tee shots over 300 yards and led the field in driving distance (343.9). The reigning FedExCup champion moved up 10 spots in the standings to 43rd; is playing one of his favorite courses in Quail Hollow at the PGA Championship this week; and knows there’s still plenty of time to find his A game as he breaks in a new caddie. 4. Chris Stroud’s father was right. Stroud got a call from Dad saying the Barracuda’s Stableford format—two points for birdies; minus one for bogeys—might reward him for all the birdies he’d been making. It did. Stroud, who returned to his counter-balanced long putter, racked up 20 points in a wild final round that included nine birdies, an eagle and three bogeys. He not only got that elusive first win after prevailing in a three-man playoff, he earned a spot in this week’s PGA and, more importantly, collected 300 FedExCup points to move up to 76th in the standings. “Huge,” Stroud said of his big move. “I think coming into this week I was sitting at 142. And we’re all nervous coming in, because we know getting the top 125 is huge.” 5. Rookie Richy Werenski, 25, was disappointed after failing to secure his TOUR card for next season. Still, he was encouraged to make it all the way into a sudden-death playoff at the Barracuda despite not having his best stuff. What’s more, he moved to 122nd in the FedExCup, so at least he’s inside the cutoff line with just two weeks remaining before the first playoff event, THE NORTHERN TRUST at Glen Oaks Club in Old Westbury, N.Y., Aug. 24-27. “Lately I feel like I'm playing pretty good,” said Werenski, a Massachusetts native who went to Georgia Tech. “It’s only a matter of time I'm back in this position.” FIVE INSIGHTS 1. Matsuyama ranked first in strokes gained: tee-to-green in the final round, with a career-best 6.582. It was also the best final-round performance by a winner on TOUR this season, besting Kevin Chappell at the Valero Texas Open (6.355), Jason Dufner at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide (5.659), and Jon Rahm at the Farmers Insurance Open (5.168). 2. While he was dominant from tee to green, Matsuyama also made massive strides in his putting. Year to date, he is just 167th in Strokes Gained: Putting (-.306) and 194th in putts made from outside 10 feet (46/375, 12.27%). At the Bridgestone, though, he ranked a much-improved 15th in SG: Putting (.759) and T16 in putting from over 10 feet (9/42, 21.43%). 3. With his runner-up finish, Zach Johnson moved up from 40th to 28th on the U.S. Presidents Cup points list. That’s still a far cry from the top 10, but he’s got the putter rolling again. He was first in SG: Putting (2.258) and third in putting from outside 10 feet (13/46, 28.26 %) at Firestone. 4. Charley Hoffman (third place, six back), who fired a final-round 66 at Firestone, has broken par in 22 of his last 24 rounds dating to the first round of the U.S. Open. He was third in sg: putting (1.617) at the Bridgestone, and moved from 12th to 11th in the FedExCup. He is one of just three players to get at least as far as the BMW Championship for all 10 years of the playoffs. 5. Thomas Pieters (71, solo fourth, eight back) notched his fourth top-five finish in 16 starts this season. As a Special Temporary Member, he is eligible for unlimited sponsor exemptions the rest of the season as he tries to earn his TOUR card for 2017-’18. He was T3 in greens in regulation (72.22%) and fourth in proximity to the hole (26’ 11’’) at the Bridgestone. TOP 3 VIDEOS 1. Charley Hoffman is on TOUR to win and he let us know on Sunday. 2. David Hearn hit a gem of a tee shot in Sunday's final round of the Barracuda Championship. 3. Poetry in motion.
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