REUTERS - Japan’s red-hot Hideki Matsuyama maintained his sizzling run of form, successfully defending his Phoenix Open title with a gripping playoff victory over American Webb Simpson at the TPC Scottsdale in Arizona on Sunday.
Matsuyama clinched his fifth win in his last nine starts worldwide when he sank a 10-foot birdie putt on the fourth playoff hole, the driveable par-four 17th, where Simpson could only par.
The duo had finished the 72 regulation holes on 17-under 267, Matsuyama narrowly missing a birdie putt at the last to card a five-under 66 and Simpson closing with a best-of-the-day 64.
It was Matsuyama’s fourth career win on the PGA Tour and Shigeki Maruyama (with three) is the only other Japanese player with multiple victories on the U.S. circuit.
“It was a struggle, especially that playoff, but I am really happy to win,” Matsuyama, 24, told CBS Sports via an interpreter after claiming the Phoenix Open title for a second year in a row at the fourth extra hole.
Twelve months ago, he edged American Rickie Fowler at the same hole.
Matsuyama is the first back-to-back winner of the Phoenix Open since Johnny Miller in 1974-75.
He had several opportunities over the closing stretch to seal victory in regulation but narrowly missed birdie putts from 15, nine and 19 feet at the 16th, 17th and the last.
Asked how he stayed patient after those squandered chances, he replied: “I just had faith and belief that there was going to be a chance to win it and luckily I made it.”
Matsuyama, who began his hot streak by winning the Japan Open in October, is expected to rise from fifth to fourth when the world rankings are updated on Monday.
Simpson, seeking his fifth victory on the PGA Tour, vaulted into contention with a brilliant closing round highlighted by an eagle at the par-five third and he booked his place in the playoff with a birdie-birdie finish.
The 2012 U.S. Open champion parred all four of the extra holes and while disappointed to lose the playoff, said he was happy to find some form.
“It’s disappointing, just the way I finished (in regulation) birdie-birdie to not come out on top, but it’s been a while since I’ve been in contention. I think it was at Colonial back in May ... I am thrilled to death with the state of my game.”
South African Louis Oosthuizen (65) finished third, one stroke behind, while South Korean An Byeong-hun, who had been three strokes clear with nine holes to play, ran up four bogeys after the turn for a 73 and sixth place, three shots off the pace.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in St. Augustine, Florida; Editing by Andrew Both