Hideki Matsuyama already had legendary status in Japan in 2019. By then, he was a PGA Tour winner and the country’s top golfer.
A win in the inaugural Zozo Championship in 2019 would have certainly added to that legend. If anyone else were to win it, though, the Japanese were thrilled to see Tiger Woods prevail ahead of Matsuyama in second.
The pandemic moved the Zozo out of Japan in 2020. It returned in 2021. Matsuyama finally had the chance to make good at Narashino Country Club, firing rounds of 64-68-68-65 to run away with a five-shot victory.
"“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 posted 71-69-66-71 to finish T-40th here in 2022.
Injuries played a part in Matsuyama having a solid, but not sterling, 2023 up to this point. The last time we saw him was at the BMW Championship where he withdrew ahead of the second round with a back injury.
I assume the two months off have Matsuyama in better health, but it’s something to monitor before finalizing your bets or DFS lineups this week.
Matsuyama piled up 10 top-25 finishes but just two top-10s this past season. He’s still very much in his prime at age 31 if he can stay healthy.
His statistical profile in the 2022-23 PGA Tour season saw him finish ranked in the top 16 in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (1.02), Approach-the-Green (.609) and Around-the-Green (.324).
The weakness is with the putter. At least he should have an advantage rolling the ball on his home country’s greens this week.
Narashino has bent grass greens. Do you know where else has bent grass greens?
A little course Matsuyama won at in 2021 called Augusta National Golf Club.
Perhaps he can recapture the putting magic he used to win the green jacket to become the Zozo Championship’s first two-time winner.