Matsuyama feels heat to win major
AKRON, Ohio — Japan is clamoring for its first major champion, and Hideki Matsuyama knows it.
Matsuyama, 25, the world’s third-ranked player, heads to Quail Hollow Club in North Carolina for this weekend’s PGA Championship, the final major of the year and his last chance to cap off a year in which the Japanese star moved into the elite in golf.
“All I can do is my best,” said Matsuyama, coming off a five-stroke victory on Sunday in the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club. “I know a lot of us have tried from Japan to win majors. Hopefully, some day it will happen.”
The timing has never been better for him.
When he was 21 in 2013 and still finishing up his college degree in Japan, Matsuyama had a five-week stretch in which he won twice and was runner-up twice on the Japan Golf Tour, and he became the first rookie to win the Order of Merit.
Last fall, Matsuyama had a six-tournament stretch in which he won four times and was runner-up in the other two events. Among those victories was the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, which he won by seven shots for his first World Golf Championship.
Now, with his second WGC title, Matsuyama has won three times this season, joining Spieth and Dustin Johnson for the most on the PGA Tour. He also took over the lead in the FedEx Cup with the start of the playoffs just three weeks away.
Matsuyama, who won at Phoenix in February, tied for 11th in the Masters, was runner-up by four shots to Brooks Koepka in the U.S. Open and tied for 14th in the British Open.
If it appeared he was struggling, it might have been because of increased expectations back in Japan.
“I hope their expectations aren’t too high,” Matsuyama said. “But my expectations really at the beginning of this week weren’t that high, either, and here we are.”
Matsuyama stays at No. 3 in the world, a fraction behind Spieth, but only because Spieth had created a large gap from his British Open victory.
He has reached as high as No. 2 this year, though he doesn’t look at himself as being in the category of Jordan Spieth, Johnson, Rory McIlroy or even Jason Day.
Hideki Matsuyama, fresh off a PGA tournament victory, said the day will come when a Japanese player will win a major.