SHANGHAI — Hideki Matsuyama waved to a cheering crowd from the top balcony of a corporate suite over the 18th green at Sheshan International, where moments earlier he finished up a thorough beating of a world-class field in the HSBC Champions.
He never felt higher. His game never felt better.
And the 24-year-old Japanese star can only hope that he’s just getting started.
Matsuyama never gave anyone a chance Sunday, closing with a 6-under 66 for a seven-shot victory that made him the first Asian to win a World Golf Championships event since the series began in 1999.
And it was only fitting he won at the event billed as “Asia’s major.”
“He was brilliant,” said defending champion Russell Knox, who played in the last group and was along for the ride. “No weaknesses the last two days. He drove the ball well and far, and his iron play was very good. And he made it look very easy.”
The only trouble came when it didn’t matter. Matsuyama realized that one last birdie would give him 30 for the week, so he went for the green on the par-5 18th and his shot bounced out of a bush and into water. No problem. He took his drop in the rough, hit wedge to 18 feet and made one last putt to extend a streak of playing the final 45 holes bogey-free.
“No special number,” he said of his goal to make 30 birdies. “I made 19 birdies the first few days, so then I was thinking, ‘Well, if I make 11 more, I can win.’ So that was kind of my goal was to get to 30 birdies.”
He really didn’t need any of them.
Matsuyama finished at 23-under 265, one short of the tournament record that Dustin Johnson set three years ago. He won by seven over British Open champion Henrik Stenson (65) and Daniel Berger (69).
One week after becoming the first Japanese player since Jumbo Ozaki in 1998 to reach the top 10 in the world, the victory moved Matsuyama up to No. 6.
There was one moment early in the round when it looked as if there would be a two-shot swing would have cut his deficit to two over Berger. Matsuyama made his 15-foot par putt on the par-3 fourth hole, hit his approach to 4 feet on the next hole for birdie and was on his way. Three straight birdies on the back nine, including a 9-iron out of the rough on the tough 15th that settled 3 feet away, turned this into a rout.
“I’ve never won by that many even in Japan,” Matsuyama said.
It was the largest margin of victory in the HSBC Champions, and the largest in a WGC event since Tiger Woods won by seven in the 2013 Bridgestone Invitational.
He won for the 10th time in his career, and his third PGA Tour-sanctioned victory tied him with Shigeki Maruyama for most by a Japanese player.