Hideki Matsuyama finished like a champion, firing the best score of the final round at the U.S. Open on Sunday but despite his six-under-par 66 had to settle for a tie for second place at Erin Hills.
The 25-year-old Matsuyama could take some comfort and pride in matching the best finish ever by a Japanese in a men’s major set by Hall of Famer Isao Aoki, runner-up to Jack Nicklaus in the 1980 U.S. Open at Baltusrol.
He also jumped from fourth to a career-high second in the world rankings behind Dustin Johnson.
“I played really well today. Came up a little short,” Matsuyama told reporters through an interpreter. “No regrets.”
Matsuyama had eight birdies and two bogeys, finishing with a flourish with a birdie on the par-five 18th to end up tied with overnight leader Brian Harman on 12-under 276, four shots behind winner Brooks Koepka.
“Brooks is a good friend of ours, and happy for him. Wish him well and congratulate him. I’ll try to beat him the next time.”
It had been an uphill battle for Matsuyama after he began the year’s second major with a two-over 74. He followed that with a sizzling second-round 65 and a 71.
“If I learned anything, you’ve got to put four good rounds together. I played two good rounds, but it wasn’t enough,” Matsuyama said.
Matsuyama watched the finish on television in the clubhouse. He said he would rather be out on the course fighting for the title.
“I learned a lot this week. Hopefully though, in future majors I can play in the last or next to last group to give myself a better chance. But I’m happy with the way I played, and it gives me confidence going forward.”
Harman led by one stroke going into the final round but took back-to-back bogeys from the 12th and finished with another bogey at 18 as he shot 72.
“It bites a little bit right now,” the diminutive left-hander said after his first experience at being in contention at a major. “But Brooks played so well on Monday.
“I mean, you’ve got to tip your cap. He went and won the golf tournament on the back nine,” Harman said about Koepka, who clinched his victory with a run of three birdies in a row from the 14th.