(Reuters) – Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, the hottest player in world golf over the past two months, survived a shaky back nine to clinch his fourth win in five starts with a two-stroke victory at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas on Sunday.
While tournament host Tiger Woods delivered the good, bad and ugly as he finished 14 shots back in his much anticipated return to competition, Matsuyama ended a dominant week with his worst round, a one-over 73 at the Albany course on the island of New Providence.
The 24-year-old Japanese, seven strokes ahead overnight in the 18-man event, birdied two of the first nine holes, then shrugged off a double at the 10th and a bogey at the 14th as he posted an 18-under total in blustery conditions.
“I have played very, very well until today,” world number six Matsuyama, speaking through an interpreter, told Golf Channel about his sizzling run that included a maiden World Golf Championships title in Shanghai in October.
“Today I struggled a bit.”
British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden eagled the par-five ninth on the way to a 68 and second place, three ahead of Americans Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler and Matt Kuchar.
Woods, back in action after being sidelined nearly 16 months due to back-related issues, endured a roller-coaster ride that included five birdies and three double-bogeys as he closed with a 76 for 15th place at four-under.
“I think it was a great week, to be back playing again and competing, playing against the best players in the world,” said Woods. “Unfortunately I made a lot of mistakes this week, made a lot of birdies but a lot of mistakes.
“I made some poor decisions, missed the ball in the wrong spots and quite frankly it feels a little weird not to play in a cart,” said Woods.
“So it’s a little different and I am getting used to that, getting my legs back and getting my body back, focusing for a long period of time. And these are all things that I have missed for about a year and a half.”
After making strong starts in each of the first three rounds, Woods struggled early on Sunday with a bogey at the fifth and a double-bogey at the next.
Though he thrilled fans with a run of three birdies from the seventh, he limped over the next three holes, going bogey, double-bogey, bogey to tumble back down.
“I was playing aggressive, this golf course allows one to be aggressive, but also I made some bad mistakes,” said Woods, who will turn 41 later this month.
“Three doubles today just adds up to a pretty high number. But on the flip side, I was able to be aggressive and make some birdies, make some putts and I just need to balance it out.”
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in St. Augustine, Florida; Editing by Larry Fine)