Walker, Matsuyama tied for Kapalua lead
KAPALUA, Hawaii — Jimmy Walker and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan made their moves on different parts of the Plantation Course on Sunday and wound up in the same spot — tied for the lead going into the final round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Matsuyama matched the best score of the week at Kapalua with a 7-under 66, making four birdies over the final six holes and ending another strong day with a delicate chip down the slope to a fast green to 2 feet on the par-5 18th.
Walker looked as if he might end this on Sunday, just like most PGA Tour events, even though this was the third round. He made four birdies in a six-hole stretch to close out the front nine and had a two-shot lead heading to the back nine when he had to settle for pars. Walker two-putted for birdie from just off the green on the 18th for a 67.
Matsuyama and Walker were at 17-under 202.
They had a two-shot lead over Bae Sang-Moon (69) and Patrick Reed (68), who like Walker is looking for his fourth PGA Tour win in the last 17 months. Brendon Todd (69) and Russell Henley (70) were three shots back and still very much in the game.
Henley was among four players tied for the lead going into Sunday and played reasonably well except for a few mistakes. One was a chip on the reachable sixth hole, which moved about 5 feet and just onto the green, leaving a fast putt. He three-putted, turning birdie into bogey.
Defending champion Zach Johnson, also tied for the lead, took double bogey on the par-5 fifth hole and didn't have much go his way in a 73 that put him six back.
The first PGA Tour event of the year doesn't have a cast of stars with Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott and Martin Kaymer staying at home, though the co-leaders going into the Monday finish are examples of why it's getting tougher to win on the PGA Tour.
Walker is going for his fourth victory since his inaugural win at the Frys.com Open to start the 2013-14 season, and he was among the few bright spots in a U.S. loss at the Ryder Cup last September. A victory would make him only the fifth player to win at both courses on the Hawaii swing.
Matsuyama is the first rookie to win the Japan Golf Tour money list, played in the Masters twice as an amateur (both times making the cut) and had a breakthrough win last year at the Memorial. He is a strong player, with a pause at the top of his swing and plenty of power through impact.
The show doesn't belong entirely to them, of course. Johnson was two shots behind going into the final round last year.
Reed made light of the Monday finish. Before getting his PGA Tour card, he played a lot of golf on Monday while trying to qualify for PGA Tour events. Each week felt like a shootout, and Reed figures it will take that in the final round at Kapalua.
Walker was happy with how he played, through the result kept him wanting. Even after reaching 16 under with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole, he looked to be going for a knockout punch. But he left an 18-foot birdie putt woefully short on the 11th hole, came out of a 15-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole and left another birdie putt from about 18 feet short on the next hole.
And while he made a par on the reachable par-4 14th, he was lucky.
Walker hit driver with a slightly helping wind, and came out of the shot. It sailed to the right toward the native grasses, which in years past have been 4 feet high and even now have been cut back to a foot. Returning the club to the bag, Walker had both hands near the neck of the club like he wanted to strangle it.
The good news? They found it. With thick strands of grass around the ball, he was happy to get out short of the green, and then caught another break when it was sitting up in the Bermuda grass. That allowed him to control his chip, and he played perfectly to a foot to escape with par.
He liked the chances at birdies, though he didn't make any until the end. Even after only two birdies on the back nine, he was tied for the lead and feeling a lot more comfortable about it than before he began winning tournaments.