Matsuyama seizes PGA lead as back-nine drama begins

Jim SLATER
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Hideki Matsuyama of Japan plays his shot on the ninth hole during the third round of the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, on August 12, 2017

World number three Hideki Matsuyama, trying to become the first Japanese men's major golf champion, seized the lead in Sunday's final round of the PGA Championship after making back-to-back birdies.

The 25-year-old Asian star reached the turn at Quail Hollow on seven-under par, one stroke ahead of a US trio -- 54-hole leader Kevin Kisner, Chris Stroud and Justin Thomas -- with three others only two strokes adrift.

Matsuyama stumbled early, taking bogey at the par-4 second hole after missing a six-foot par putt.

But he responded by dropping his tee shot nine feet from the cup at the par-3 sixth and sinking the birdie putt, then making a four-footer for birdie at the par-5 seventh.

That grabbed Matsuyama a share of the lead with 25th-ranked Kisner, who put his second shot at the seventh into the water on his way to a bogey that left Matsuyama alone at the top.

The PGA is known for bringing first-time major success. Except for Rory McIlroy, the 2012 and 2014 champion, every PGA winner since 2008 has been a first-time major trophy-holder.

That trend could mean a historic day for Matsuyama, who would be only the second Asian male major champion after 2009 PGA winner Yang Yong-Eun of South Korea.

Matsuyama, who matched the best Japanese showing in a men's major with his US Open runner-up effort two months ago at Erin Hills, fired a final-round 61 last Sunday to win a World Golf Championships title.

If he lifts the Wanamaker Trophy and grabs the top prize of $1.89 million (1.59 million euros), Matsuyama would join Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as the only players since 1947 to win the PGA after taking a crown the week before.

Kisner, whose home is a two-hour drive south of the 7,600-yard layout, won his second US PGA title in May at Colonial. His first came at the 2015 RSM Classic in his 109th tour start. His best result in 11 prior majors was a share of 12th at the 2015 US Open.

Sharing fifth on five-under were American Patrick Reed, Italy's Francesco Molinari and South African Louis Oosthuizen, the only major winner in the hunt. The 2010 British Open champion is also a three-time major runner-up.

Historic win bids collapsed for British Open winner and world number two Jordan Spieth and fourth-ranked McIlroy.

Spieth, who could have become the youngest to complete a career Grand Slam, closed with a 70 to finish on two-over 286.

McIlroy, who sought a fifth career major but still hasn't won one since the 2014 PGA, fired a 68 to finish on 285.