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Masters champ Hideki Matsuyama showed early promise

Editor’s be aware: This story on just lately topped Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama initially ran within the Aug. 2, 2013, subject of Golfweek.

OAKVILLE, ONTARIO – After enjoying the primary two rounds of the 2013 RBC Canadian Open with 21-year-old Hideki Matsuyama, Australian Greg Chalmers was so impressed with the Japanese standout’s sport that he deliberate to jot Presidents Cup International staff captain Nick Price the equal of a letter of advice.

Chalmers shall be relieved to know that Price already has taken discover. In a weblog posting after the U.S. Open, Price wrote of Matsuyama, “He’s not scared of the big arena. Obviously, he enjoys it, so I’ll keep a really close eye on him.”

Matsuyama, who turned skilled in April, has risen to No. 33 within the Official World Golf Ranking, making him the highest-ranked Asian. [Note: He’s climbed as high as No. 2 and his Masters win lifted him back to No. 14.] He is also holding regular in eighth place within the Presidents Cup standings after posting victories on the Tsuruya Open and Diamond Cup tournaments on the Japan Golf Tour.

Moreover, he proved his sport travels by changing into the primary Asian to file back-to-back top-10 finishes in majors, on the latest U.S. and British opens. (He completed T-16 on the RBC Canadian Open.)

Meanwhile, Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa, additionally 21, chopped his solution to a spherical of 80 at Glen Abbey and missed the 54-hole minimize. So far, his first full season as a PGA Tour member should be characterised as a disappointment. His sport appears a shell of its former self, and his world rating, which has plummeted to No. 158, displays it.

At dwelling, there nonetheless isn’t any substitute for Ishikawa. For some time, it appeared that with every event his movie star grew. But fame is a power, and the general public is all the time keen on the following large factor. Many Ishikawa supporters have already got switched allegiance to the Matsuyama camp. His torrid play has introduced a brand new form of focus and unceasing consideration on Matsuyama again dwelling.

When requested if he has attained Ishikawa’s rock-star standing, he answered, “I’m just same old me.” With a mischievous smile, he added, “I’m not as handsome as Ryo is.”

This will be the daybreak of Japan’s subsequent rivalry. What separates the 2 upstarts, who’ve identified one another since junior highschool, from Jumbo Ozaki and different Japanese touring execs is their recognition that the measure of greatness should come on a bigger stage.

“My dream has always been to play on the PGA Tour,” Matsuyama mentioned.

If Ishikawa versus Matsuyama is to materialize, it possible will play out right here. Beginning with pitcher Hideo Nomo in 1995, Japanese sports activities followers have watched one of the best athletes flock to America. It was large information in Japan when Matsuyama and Ishikawa performed 9 holes collectively in a July 23 apply spherical. Yasuhiro “JJ” Tanabe, a contract photographer who covers the Tour, mentioned it was the equal of Tiger and Phil enjoying, “only they get along.”

Asked to evaluate Matsuyama’s sport, Ishikawa answered with grudging appreciation. “If you watch him on the range, he’s like a regular player, but if you watch him on the golf course, he’s a different player,” Ishikawa mentioned. “He’s a tough competitor and has a lot of confidence now.”

Hideki Matsuyama

Hideki Matsuyama

Hideki Matsuyama on the 2013 PGA Championship.

To the informal fan, Matsuyama could have gained latest notoriety for being assessed a one-stroke penalty for sluggish play throughout the third spherical of the Open Championship. To Matsuyama, the dispiriting episode is already forgotten. Chalmers, for one, deemed Matsuyama’s tempo of play a non-issue. “I can think of a hundred guys out here that are worse,” he mentioned.

Matsuyama reminded Chalmers of a extra highly effective model of Okay.J. Choi. Robert Turner, Matsuyama’s U.S.-based interpreter, labored in an analogous capability for the late Seve Ballesteros in Japan for greater than 10 years and mentioned Matsuyama has the identical ardour and love for the sport as Ballesteros. “He can’t get enough of it,” Turner mentioned.

To bolster his competition, Turner recounted how Matsuyama returned to Merion’s apply inexperienced after capturing a Sunday 67 on the U.S. Open, the place he completed T-10. While most gamers packed to depart, Matsuyama hit putts for greater than an hour, then hit balls as if he might enhance his efficiency and get forward of others by sheer repetition.

“He’s fearless too,” Turner mentioned, “although maybe that’s being 21.”

Matsuyama sounded fearless when he was requested to call his greatest spotlight this yr. It might’ve been profitable in his second occasion as a professional, or his success within the majors or maybe the possibility to see the world (he visited Niagara Falls whereas in Canada). Instead, Matsuyama answered, “I haven’t had it yet.”

He once more spoke from the center when requested what he’d like readers to find out about him.

“I’d like to have their support and have them cheer for me,” he mentioned. “That would mean the world to me.”

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