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Matsuyama wins Memorial in play-off

ESPN staff
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Hideki Matsuyama was congratulated by Jack Nicklaus after winning the Memorial Tournament © Getty Images
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Hideki Matsuyama earned his first victory in America and validation as one of golf's young stars on Sunday with a birdie on the 18th hole to force a play-off and a 10-foot par putt on the first extra to win the Memorial.

In a tournament that Masters champions Bubba Watson and Adam Scott threw away on a wild back nine, Matsuyama looked certain to join them.

He lost the lead by dropping three shots on two holes, and he didn't look like a winner when he pushed his drive toward the bunkers on the final hole. Lightly slamming his driver to the turf in disgust, the head broke off. Matsuyama followed with an approach to just outside five feet for birdie and a three-under 69.

That forced a play-off with Kevin Na, who finished his round of 64 about two hours earlier.

Matsuyama chose not to replace his broken driver in the play-off, and his three-wood went into the bunker. Na drove left into the creek and still had about 10 feet for bogey on the 18th hole in the play-off when Matsuyama made his par putt.

The 22-year-old from Japan pumped his fist as the ball was a few inches from dropping.

"I'm really, really happy," Matsuyama said through his interpreter. "It's a dream come true to win at Mr. Nicklaus' course."

Matsuyama won for the sixth time in his career, all of them on the Japan Golf Tour. He had a pair of top 10s in the majors last year.

Bubba Watson watches his tee shot on the 15th hole sail over the trees and out of bounds © Getty Images
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Tournament host Jack Nicklaus greeted him behind the 18th green. Nicklaus spent much of the back nine in the broadcast booth, and it was a brand of golf that was unfamiliar to golf's greatest champion. The Memorial became only the latest event where proven players faltered badly.

Watson, who started the final round with a one-shot lead, was still in control until a couple of wild tee shots - one into deep rough on the 14th that led to bogey, and one so far right on the par-five 15th that it went over the trees and into a neighbourhood, far out-of-bounds. That led to double bogey and he never recovered. Watson closed with a 72 and finished one shot out of the play-off.

"It's tough," Watson said, who was going for his third win of the year. "I made one bad decision. If I hit four-wood off the tee instead of driver on the par five, we make five and we win by one. But I made double, so we lost by one."

Scott had a share of the lead after 11 holes and was poised for his second straight PGA Tour win. But he put his tee shot into the water on the par-three 12th for double bogey, took two shots to get out of a bunker on the 14th for bogey, and then dropped another shot at the 15th when his wedge hit the pin and caromed back into the fairway. He closed with a 71 and tied for fourth place with Chris Kirk (68).

"It's the way it goes," Scott said. "You get lucky breaks and you get bad ones."

Na was in the clubhouse at Muirfield Village, leaning against two pillows watching this collection of errors, even joking that he might win by sitting on a couch. He finally headed out to the range, but one swing into the water was too much to overcome.

The only consolation for Na was that his runner-up finish moved him high enough in the world rankings that he will be exempt for the U.S. Open. He had planned on going through 36-hole qualifying on Monday.

Matsuyama was able to replace his driver because the play-off is not part of the final round. Instead, he chose to take three-wood. It looked as if it might cost him when the shot was well back and caught the bunker. Na helped by finding the water. Matsuyama's approach hit a fan left of the green, but he played a good chip and made the most important putt of his young career.

Matsuyama should rise to about No.13 in the world rankings.

A two-time winner of the Asia-Pacific Amateur - he made the cut both times at the Masters as an amateur - he took a different route than Ryo Ishikawa by waiting to turn pro until a year ago. Matsuyama won once as an amateur, and he won on his professional debut in Japan.

He graduated from university in Japan a few weeks before the Masters.

Matsuyama had experience at Muirfield Village. He played in the Presidents Cup in October, teaming with Scott in four of the matches.

Memorial Tournament - final leaderboard

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