Hideki Matsuyama defeated Kevin Na on the first playoff hole to claim his first PGA TOUR victory in his young, burgeoning career at the Memorial at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. After errant tee shots and second shots from both players, Matsuyama got up-and-down from the short side for par to clinch victory. Kevin Na never had a chance to hole his putt for five after he found the water off the tee. Bubba Watson, the 54-hole-leader, finished third to complete the podium. He’s now 0-5 career with the solo 54-hole lead.
Matsuyama began Sunday two shots back of the Masters champion but after running out in 32, he was tied for the lead on No. 10 tee. His sixth birdie of the day on No. 13 made him five-under on Sunday and 15-under for the week. It was his tournament to lose at the time and he almost did as he made double bogey on No. 16 after his tee shot found the water. He followed that with a bogey on No. 17 to fall out of a share of the lead with the magnificent Na (64, -13). But, for the fourth time in four days, the young Japanese birdied No. 18 and this forced the playoff and became the fourth, Japanese-born player to win on TOUR. He joins Ryuji Imada, Shigeki Maryuama and Isao Aoki in this club.
The playoff began on No. 18 so it was immediately advantage Matsuyama. His tee shot found the right bunker but Na’s found the creek wide left. Advantage Matsuyama part II. After hooking his bunker shot wide of the green and short-sided, he showed his class by finding the green. Na’s chip for a four raced by the hole and Matsuyama didn’t give him a chance to make it.
Matsuyama was making his first loops around Muirfield Village and, like Jordan Spieth, it’s time for gamers to look past is perceived “inexperience”. This dude can flat-out play and he showed it this week by racking up 24 birdies (2nd). His putter is usually his weapon of choice and he finished the week seventh in putts per GIR but was also T11 in fairways and T22 GIR. On a course he had barely seen he only made nine bogeys for the week. He turned 22 last February. With him and Jordan Spieth, the future of golf is in excellent hands for the coming years.
Matsuyama was trending in the right direction this week and he just missed out on making the Call due to his lack of experience around here. I’ll bet I’m not the only gamer learning week to week but none of us should be surprised that he had another great finish this week. After a pair of MCs at Augusta (80-71) and RBC Heritage (71-79) he’s rebounded in his last three starts. He posted T38 at WFC, T23 at THE PLAYERS and T10 last week at Colonial. Last week he was one of four 54-hole-co-leaders not to close the deal in Ft. Worth after he shot 64 on Saturday. It looks like he’s a quick study as he bounced back quite nicely this week.
Last season he burst on to the scene as he won four times in Japan. If that didn’t cure the skeptics, his seven events on TOUR should have. After MC at the Sony, he returned six months later at the U.S. Open and posted T10. His next stop was The Open Championship where he racked up another top 10 with T6. Not bad for his first two majors as a pro! In his third, the PGA Championship, he slumped to a T19. The week before the PGA he finished T21 at his first WGC tournament. Oh, and he was the Asian Amateur champ in 2010 and 2011. That’s some resume for a kid who just turned 22 in February!
Based on the above, I can’t find many reasons to not be encouraged about Matsuyama moving forward. The only problem I’ve noticed is that he has had a few injuries issues including a wrist and a back over the last nine months. That’s not exactly what I need to see from a 21-22 year old but there’s no questioning his talent on the course. Moving forward I don’t see what Matsuyama cannot improve on his 12 weekends from 15 starts in 2013-14. This was also his fourth top 10 so I think we can all agree that “flukey” is not a word to associate with him.
With his victory, Matsuyama collects $1,116,000 and 500 FedExCup points and all the other goodies that going along with winning on TOUR.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 21 of 29 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes and Brendon Todd have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Matsuyama joins Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer is flying the flag for Europe with his victory.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd and Matsuyama are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had nine in 29 events so far in 2014. #onpace
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 15 of 28 leaders have gone on to win as Bubba Watson now is 0-5 in his career with the solo 54-hole lead.
Hideki Matsuyama tried to pull a “Sergio Garcia” by winning in his first attempt at Colonial. He didn’t. Hideki Matsuyama pulled a Hideki Matsuyama by winning his first attempt at Memorial. He’s the only player, besides the inaugural event, in the other 38 events to win on his first try.
Matsuyama makes only the eighth, foreign-born player to win the Memorial in 39 events. Justin Rose was the last to do so in 2011.
The last playoff at Muirfield was in 1992. Matsuyama was two months old. This was only the fourth playoff in history.
Tiger Woods was the youngest player to win at 23. Matsuyama is 22 and now takes over that record.
Matsuyama joins Keith Fergus, Kenny Perry, Tom Lehman and Justin Rose as players to claim their maiden victories on TOUR.
Woods remains the only player to defend his title as 2013 champ Matt Kuchar finished T15.
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson remain the only players on TOUR with multiple wins this season. Watson had a chance to join Walker on three wins but he’ll enjoy his second green jacket.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32) and Adam Scott (33) have also added to the Prime Timers total.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer (29), Brendon Todd, 28 and now Matsuyama, 22, are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season. Steve Stricker, 47, came out of semi-retirement to post T6 to the delight of Stricker fans everywhere.