AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Hideki Matsuyama is never sure when his best golf is going to show up.
When it does, he can pile up victories with the best of them.
One of the bigger surprises came at just the right time for Matsuyama. While he was only two shots out of the lead going into the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational, he lost his swing on his way to the practice range.
“Probably the worst warmup at a tournament that I’ve won,” he said.
More than just the win was the manner in which the 25-year-old from Japan captured his second World Golf Championship.
He chipped in from 60 feet for eagle on the second hole to get in the game. He took the lead with a 15-foot birdie putt on the sixth hole, and he kept right on going. Already in control, he remembered the course record at Firestone was 61 because he was playing with Tiger Woods in 2013 when Woods did it. Matsuyama closed with three straight birdies for a 9-under 61 to win by five shots.
He went from wondering where the ball was going to knowing where to find it — at the bottom of the cup.
“When you’re making birdies,” he said, “get relaxed real quick.”
And now the pressure returns.
Matsuyama heads to Quail Hollow Club in North Carolina for the PGA Championship, the final major of the year and his last chance to cap off a year in which the Japanese star moved into the elite in golf.
Japan is clamoring for its first major champion, and he knows it.
“All I can do is my best,” Matsuyama said. “I know a lot of us have tried from Japan to win majors. Hopefully, some day it will happen.”
The timing has never been for him.
When he was 21 and still finishing up his college degree in Japan, Matsuyama had a five-week stretch in which he won twice and was runner-up twice on the Japan Golf Tour in 2013, the year he became the first rookie to win the Order of Merit.
What really turned heads was last fall. Starting with a pressure-filled victory before the home crowd in the Japan Open, Matsuyama had a six-tournament stretch in which he won four times and was runner-up in the other two events. Among those victories was the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, which he won by seven shots for his first…