Hideki Matsuyama – The Making of a Superstar

This page’s inaugural post was about the young Japanese player Hideki Matsuyama.

He burst onto the scene by winning the Asian amateur, thus gaining access to The Masters in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. By coming T27, and low amateur, stood up to take notice at what looked like the future of Asian golf. After last week’s obliteration of Firestone Country Club, those forecasts were correct.

The Japanese’ golf swing and temperament were instantly eye catching and he looked comfortable on the grandest of stages. His distinctive pause at the top of his swing is both incredibly unusual and ensures it stays solid under the utmost pressure.

It has now become a question of when, rather than if, he wins a Major Championship.

Will the first come at Quail Hollow?

This week brings the final Major Championship of the year; the PGA Championship. The venue, Quail Hollow, evokes memories of Rory’s first PGA victory back in 2011. He tore the course apart, shooting a final round 63 (after making the cut on the number) to win by lots.

That sort of golf is not dissimilar to what Matsuyama just did to the WGC Bridgestone Invitational – but more of that later.

Quail Hollow is a typical PGA Championship course. Long and straight, after the recent changes to the golf course, it will be a similar test to last year’s track Baltusrol. Hideki back-doored at 4th place finish and could’ve made a run at the title.

In 2017, his form in Majors has been very consistent: T-11, T-2 and T-14. This is largely due to his ball striking and driving remaining constant, but it is the flat stick that is joining the party.

With rain forecast, it is likely to turn into a dart throwing contest, and after Hideki’s all-time ball striking display last week, you’d be hard pressed to bet against him.

“I just couldn’t believe anyone could shoot 61 on that golf course…”

4 years ago, Matsuyama had a front row seat to Tiger Woods shooting 61 in the second round of the same tournament. Tiger went on to win that year by 7, with Hideki refusing to believe anyone could shoot a 61 on that course.

Well now he has done it to…

That display of ball striking is the stuff of dreams, and to do it with some of the best golfers in the world breathing down their neck is doubly impressive.

Three birdies to finish was the definition of clutch, with a particular highlight being a 350+ yard laser beam of a drive on the 18th.

In Tiger-like fashion, he took his time, inhaled a big deep breath and absolutely crushed it right down the middle. A flick and a putt later secured the victory, and his second WGC.

Underrated? No problem…

Being under the radar compared to the other superstars in the game suits Hideki down to the ground. When you compare his stats, versus a certain Rickie Fowler, for example, they make an interesting read;

Fowler – 28, 4 PGA Victories, 7 top tens in Majors. Matsuyama – 25, 5 PGA Victories, 6 top tens in Majors.

The hype that surrounds ‘the best player to not win a Major’, is a tough one to bear. Just ask Westwood, Garcia, Montgomerie etc.

However, his Asian heritage means that the glare of the spotlight does not shine quite so brightly on the Japanese. Whilst the hype in Japan, is incredibly real, he has got a lot of people rooting for him in a sport that is crying out for young athletes from the Far East.

We look on to Quail Hollow with baited breath, and a few shillings on the young man from the Land of the Rising Sun.

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