Hideki Matsuyama is the current Master’s winner. So, when he beats defending champion John Daley in the second round and gives the USA the lead on the back nine, you have to ask – Who else could it be? Matsuyama has the range to hit the short balls down the fairway, the chip shot to set up the approach shot, and the booming round play to finish out the round. The one thing that scares a lot of people off about him is his lack of speed. In fact, when I was watching the US Open, I wrote down that Matsuyama was the slowest man on the course, and almost never made a good return.
Well, this turned out to be a big understatement. The man can really go for it on any green. Here are a couple of examples of his insane drives to win the Masters. From one side of the green to the other, he hit a pull and a push, then a nice slice. On the other side of the green, he hit two different approaches to the same hole, one of them bogeyed, and one of them straightened out with a magnificent approach.
Those are two strokes better than the rest of the field put together. No wonder he was fourth in the Masters, behind only Mike Weir and Hideki Matsuyama. Two strokes are better than the next closest competitors. That’s like winning the U.S. Open or the British Open, but with a lower score.
In the second round, Matsuyama birdied Daley but then hit a horrible approach shot for birdies on the same green that put him in a tough spot. The bogey was part of a bogey that he hit from three feet. Three feet! That’s like hitting two cinder blocks. This is where he reminds me of two guys who work on the PGA tour, and they are far from PGA tour pros, but they have become professionals at their particular games because they spend all of their lives playing them.
Matsuyama was up to two strokes ahead in the last hole, then hit an approach shot that sent him two inches to the green. His shot left a big rut and sent him into the rough. He hit two more approaches, one of them hit just enough wood to get away from it, and then he hit a huge putt to win the Masters. I had no doubt this was going to be a victory. This is how you win the Masters.
I’m not saying that Hideki Matsuyama is going to do this every year and win the Masters. It just doesn’t happen that way for most people. But he has beaten some very good players and hung what could have been a bogey on the last hole into the final round to win the Masters, which makes him one of the best the world has ever seen.
Not only did he win, but he also came away with what looked like a double bogey. That’s two putts for par, with one birdie. Those are good by Tiger Woods. And that’s par for him as well. The US Open is next, and now that we know he can make par, I bet we will see a lot more of him on the links in the weeks leading up to it.
I’m expecting at least another three bogey this time, and I’m sure the US Open will be much tighter with the crowds out there. So it looks like Matsuyama will be able to hang in there, at least through the first couple of rounds. We will have to wait and see if he can sustain the same form after the cut-off, but this bogey may put him into the Masters and give him some momentum for the rest of the year. Who knows?