(Reuters) – Seven has been a magic number for Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama in recent weeks and it was no different at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in Saturday’s third round.
The 24-year-old from Ehime spectacularly eagled the par-four seventh when his 80-yard approach took one bounce and landed in the cup on his way to a seven-under 65 at the Albany course on the island of New Providence and a commanding seven-stroke lead.
World number six Matsuyama has been a winner three times in his last four starts worldwide, and on two of those occasions he triumphed by seven strokes to establish himself as the hottest player in the game.
With typical humility, Matsuyama said his sizzling form owed a great deal to the help of fellow PGA Tour player and compatriot Hiroshi Iwata, along with a slice or two of good fortune.
“Hiroshi watched my putting and gave me a couple of tips, and since then it’s kind of fallen into place and has been improving each week,” Matsuyama told reporters through an interpreter after posting a 19-under total of 197.
“This week, I’m not putting my best but there’s a lot of 18-, 20-footers that are finding the hole and that’s really helped out.
“I’ve given myself a couple of good chances for birdies and they’ve gone in. I really feel kind of lucky up until now,” said Matsuyama.
Woods, who squandered a sizzling start of his own on Saturday with a messy finish to end the third round 11 strokes off the pace, applauded the all-round talents of the Japanese.
“Look at the size of him! He’s got very, very strong legs,” Woods told Golf Channel. “I played with him at the (2013) British Open at Muirfield for the first time and was very impressed.
“This kid can really move the golf ball and he thinks his way around the golf course. It’s going to pay off in the end.”
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in St. Augustine, Florida; Editing by Larry Fine)