Looking at his resume, you almost wouldn’t think that Hideki Matsuyama is just 22 years old. The Japanese star has been playing at the highest levels in his home country for years now. He just turned pro back in April of 2013, then ran over the competition on the way to four titles.
That success earned him a place in three major championships last year, and although he had appeared in the Masters Tournament twice before, this was his true coming-out party to American audiences. He proved he could hang with the big dogs by scoring top-20 finishes all three times, highlighted by a tie for sixth at the Open Championship.
Of course, there’s a big difference between showing up for the big tournaments and making it happen week in and week out on the PGA Tour. Matsuyama made the jump to the Tour in October, and if there were any questions about how he would handle that pressure, his win at the Memorial Tournament should remove all doubt.
Sure, Matsuyama’s had his ups and downs this year, but his talent has never been in question. That being said, it would have been easy to see a young man in his first Tour season go in the tank after missing cuts at the Masters and the RBC Heritage. Instead, Matsuyama went the opposite way, improving his results each time out leading up to his breakthrough win at Muirfield Village.
Now, ranked 14th in the FedEx Cup points race and 13th in the World Ranking, what does the future hold after Matsuyama’s first Tour win? With his unique swing, his iron game is incredible, and he ranks 12th in proximity to the hole on approach shots in 2014. That allows him not only to convert on a high percentage of his birdie opportunities (37.54%, 4th this season) but even more, it keeps him from making too many bad bogeys. He has his fair share of three-putts, but they generally aren’t taking him out of tournaments.
Of course, with success comes even higher expectations. Anybody who thought that Matsuyama would allow inexperience to keep him from playing to his potential know better now. With competition at some of the highest levels in recent memory, that will serve him well as he looks to stake his claim as one of the best young players in golf.