DUBLIN, Ohio - The Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance saw a playoff for the first time since 1992, which concluded with 22-year-old Hideki Matsuyama defeating Kevin Na.
Sunday’s final round had a little bit of everything as Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, Na and Matsuyama each had part of the lead at some point, but it was a one-hole playoff that ended the tournament and gave Matsuyama his first PGA Tour win.
“To win my first PGA Tour event is enough, but to win it here at Mr. Nicklaus’ course, it really gives me a lot of confidence now going on,” Matsuyama said through interpreter Bob Turner. “Hopefully I’ll be able to use this week as a stepping stone to further my career.”
Matsuyama started his round with three birdies in the first four holes. He would birdie the eighth hole which resulted in a 4 -nder front nine. He encountered problems on the back nine with a bogey on 14. His problems were solved with a two-stroke lead following the 15th hole, but he bogeyed away the lead with a double on 16 and another blemish on 17.
Adam Scott meanwhile was in the mix until a bogey on 12, part of a stretch where he had four bogeys in five holes. On 15 he hit the flag stick but the ball bounced off the green.
Watson had the lead to start the round, but he bogeyed 14 and on the par 5 15th hole, he hit a ball far enough right that it landed in a backyard. He would double bogey the hole. Watson was 12 under on par fives during the tournament until that blemish.
“It’s tough, I made one bad decision,” Watson said. “If I hit the 4-wood off the tee instead of driver on the (15th hole), we make five and win by one. I made a double, so we lost by one.”
Watson’s consolation prize is he will overtake Tiger Woods as the third-ranked player once the next official golf rankings come out.
Na fired a 64, good for an 8-under-par round, which was a stroke behind Rory McIlroy for the week’s best. Na shot 5 under on the front nine, including birdies on the fifth through seventh holes.
While the putts were important, the pars on the final two holes were perhaps his biggest. On 17, he hit a three wood into the bunker, surprising Na’s caddie Kenny Harms. He tried to ease Na’s mind by making the shot seem easy and the approach worked as Na got on the green and two-putted for par.
After a fairway drive on 18, Na had trouble committing to the shot and when he finally committed, had to overcome some trouble.
“I got over it and on the way down, a (piece of) cotton kind of just flew over my ball and I lost my focus and fatted it,” Na said.
Na’s ball ended up in the fairway and he hit his chip to around five feet. He made what he called “a perfect putt” and went into the clubhouse at 13 under.
For a while it looked as though Na would prevail, but he went to both the putting green and driving range in preparation for a playoff.
When he got to the 18th tee, Matsuyama pulled out his driver and hit what he thought was an errant tee shot. He put down his club in disappointment, shattering the head. Matsuyama decided to “go for broke” knocking his second shot to within five feet of the pin. He would make the putt forcing a playoff.
Matsuyama birdied the 18th hole all four days, the first time that’s happened in tournament history.
“The 18th hole I was fortunate enough to hit the fairway all four days,” said Matsuyama. “That makes it possible to get it close enough for a birdie. It just happened the yardage I had all four days was the perfect yardage. I was able to use a club that I practiced the most with, and therein lies maybe the success I had at 18.”
On the first hole, Na found water off the tee while Matsuyama, down to a 3-wood after losing his driver, found the rough. Matsuyama’s shot came out hard left striking a spectator, stopping his ball in the rough and in play. Matsuyama would hit his third shot from an uneven lie but hit it to 10 feet. Na could only watch as Matsuyama hit his putt into the cup to end the tournament.
“We’re proud he’s our winner,” tournament founder and host Jack Nicklaus said. “This young man’s going to win a lot of golf tournaments. 22 years old, that’s how old I was when I won my first tournament. I congratulate him and wish him well, the tournament went great.”
Sir Nick Faldo is tournament honoree
Today it was announced by the Captains Club that Nick Faldo was selected as the 2015 Memorial Tournament honoree. Faldo won six majors in his career, earning three British Opens and three Masters Tournaments. Faldo amassed 39 tournament wins worldwide.
Also be honored are Dorothy Campbell, Jerome Travers and Walter Travis who were selected as deceased honorees.
Carlos Ortiz makes cut in PGA Tour debut
Carlos Ortiz, the winner of the Panama Claro Championship and El Bosque Mexico Championship, received a sponsor exemption to play this week, and made the most of it making the cut by one stroke and shooting 3 over for the week.
“It was great to make the cut in my first event on the PGA Tour,” Ortiz said. “I was disappointed with my play today but was happy to finish strong and birdie the last hole.”
Ortiz is first on the Web.com Tour 25 list and plans to go back there to win his third tournament of the season. The tournament did help him with his confidence moving forward.
“This proves to me that I’m good enough to win next year,” said Ortiz.
Stricker getting his game back
Steve Stricker shot a four under par 68 to finish at 9 under, a top-10 finish. Stricker was pleased that he hung in and believes he is better prepared for the U.S. Open.
Stricker also revealed to a few reporters that he tried to get different clubs for the first three months of the season and that it did not work out well.
“I threw away a couple of tournaments,” Stricker said.
Of note: Jason Day finished at 3 under after a 2-over final-round 74. He was disappointed with his play considering Muirfield Village is his home course. He believes that the rust played a factor and will arrive at Pinehurst on Thursday to prepare for the U.S. Open…The Memorial Tournament will be held next year June 1-7.
Chris Dazen also contributed to this article.