October 30, 2016 / 8:12 AM / 2 years ago

Matsuyama cruises to maiden WGC title in Shanghai

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama has set his sights on winning his first major after cruising to his maiden World Golf Championship title with a dominant seven-shot victory at the $9.5 million WGC-HSBC Champions on Sunday.

Golf - WGC-HSBC Champions Golf Tournament - Shanghai, China- 30/10/16 Hideki Matsuyama of Japan in poses with the trophy after winning. REUTERS/Aly Song

Matsuyama, who won the Japan Open earlier this month, began the day with a three-shot cushion and carded a six-under-par 66 in the final round to finish on 23-under for the tournament.

“Winning today, I feel has got me closer to being able to compete a lot better in the major tournaments,” said the 24-year-old, the first Asian to win an individual WGC title.

“My next goal is to win a major and I’m going to do all that I can to prepare well for that.”

British Open champion Henrik Stenson hit a final round 65 to share second place with American Daniel Berger (69), good enough to take the Swede past U.S. Masters champion Danny Willett at the top of the European Tour’s Race to Dubai standings.

World number three Rory McIlroy remains third in the standings behind Willett after shooting a final round 66 to finish in a share of fourth with American Bill Haas (69) on 15-under.

Matsuyama chalked up in his second error-free round of the tournament on Sunday, starting the day with a birdie before picking up shots on the fifth and seventh holes.

He made three birdies in a row on the back nine, getting the first of them with a 30-foot putt on the 13th, and managed to avoid a bogey on the signature par-five final hole despite landing in the water.

The youngest player to win the HSBC Champions, which is co-sanctioned by all the major tours, Matsuyama is also the first Japanese to win a European Tour event since Isao Aoki in 1983.

Stenson also turned in a flawless round, picking up seven birdies, including one with a clutch putt from the fringe at the last, as he tied for the day’s low score with Britain’s Matthew Fitzpatrick.

“It was a sweet putt to make on the last. I probably felt like I was playing better on the front nine yesterday than what I did today, but today I kept it going all the way to the end,” Stenson said.

“There was not a bogey on the scorecard. So nice way to finish with a bogey-free 65.”

McIlroy, who also picked up seven birdies, was unfortunate not to tie with Stenson and Fitzpatrick on 65 for the day after seeing his birdie attempt on the 18th lip out.

“I think Hideki has played much superior golf than the rest of the field this week. You know, he’s going to be a deserved champion, that’s for sure,” said McIlroy.

“It’s been a decent week. Obviously there’s a couple good scores in there mixed in with a couple of ones that I would like to take back. But you know, overall, the week’s been pretty good.”

Willett finished a disappointing week at the Sheshan International Golf Club with a 75 to end the tournament on 14-over.

Italy’s former champion Francesco Molinari (70) shared sixth on 14-under with Ross Fisher (68) and American Rickie Fowler (68). Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who won at Sheshan in 2008, and last year’s winner Russell Knox tied for ninth two shots further back.

Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru, editing by Nick Mulvenney

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