It’s hard not to choose the native son this week.
Sure, there’s pressure on him to perform in front of his home fans, but he’s shown he can handle it.
Japan’s star golfer has been incredible at Narashino, finishing second only behind Tiger Woods in 2019 and winning in 2021. At the Tokyo Olympics at Kasumigaseki GC, Matsuyama lost in a seven-man playoff for the Bronze Medal in 2021, which preceded his ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP title.
Three years ago, Matsuyama posted 65-67-65-67 to finish three shots behind Woods and three clear of Rory McIlroy and Sungjae Im in a tie for third.
Matsuyama was uncharacteristically second in the field in 2019 in putts per green in regulation (1.63) after hitting 75% GIR.
When the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP returned to Japan in 2022, Matsuyama’s score was one shot higher (64-68-68-65), but it produced a five-shot victory over Brendan Steele and Cameron Tringale.
An eagle on the par-5 closing hole on Sunday was a nice way to delight the gallery one last time.
“It was one of my biggest goals to win in front of the Japanese fans here in this country as well,” Matsuyama was transcribed by Tee Scripts in 2021. “So happy that I’ll be able to accomplish that. Also, in 2019 Tiger won the Masters and went on to win the ZOZO Championship, so I’m glad that I would be able to emulate that as well.”
Matsuyama didn’t make a double bogey or worse all week and was second in the field in scrambling (76.92%).
Last year’s field was a little bare, but it was still an impressive performance. Backing it up will be tougher this year with a few more big names in attendance, but Matsuyama’s got what it takes.
He backed up his 2021 major championship winning season with a solid 2022. Matsuyama won the Sony Open and played well when not dealing with injury issues. He earned four top-10s, including solo fourth at the U.S. Open.
Matsuyama didn’t have his best stuff at the Presidents Cup going 1-3-1, but he’s in much more comfortable climes this week.