September 19, 2014
OpinionTuesday, June 3, 2014
Stirring win vaults Matsuyama into focus
Until Sunday afternoon Hideki Matsuyama was just another young talented Japanese player with a glowing trajectory, hoping to make his mark on the PGA Tour. Following a playoff victory over Kevin Na in Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial tournament, without doubt the 22-year-old has come of age, and in so doing set a remarkable record.
Matsuyama birdied the tough 18th hole at Muirfield village each of the four regulation rounds, most tellingly firing a straight line arrow to five feet at the 72nd hole, setting up the birdie that would tie early-finisher Na, this after dropping out of the lead with double-bogey, bogey on the previous two holes.
Perhaps even more remarkable was Matsuyama’s up-and-down winning par-save on this same hole in the playoff from deep rough to a short pin, in all a performance mature beyond his age. But in some respects not so surprising; he’s been “doing clutch” for years.
Go back four years when as an 18-year-old he won the Asian Amateur, became the first Japanese amateur to compete at Augusta, repeated his Asian Amateur triumph in 2011, became world number one in the amateur rankings, turned pro in April 2013, going on to win five Japan Tour events in nine months and become first-ever rookie to lead the Japan Tour money list.
Somehow, knowing that, putting Hideki’s name up there with Rory and Adam and Keegan and Jordan doesn’t seem fanciful at all.
In a new initiative the LPGA, the PGA of America and KPMG have joined forces to create a new world-class annual major, the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. For 2015 this new challenge will replace 60-year-old LPGA Championship, the second longest running event next to the US Women’s Open.
Over the years the tournament has had numerous title sponsors but this latest development involving a close tie with the PGA of America is a ground-breaker, permitting US golf’s oldest professional player organization direct involvement in the international growth of the women’s game.
“This is a landmark moment to embrace an historic championship and focus on the advancement of women,” said PGA of America President Ted Bishop. “We look forward to teaming with the LPGA to make (this) the can’t-miss week for female leaders. Together, we believe this championship — broadcast to millions around the world — will energize new audiences in our collective effort to grow the game.”
The recently-announced America’s Golf Cup, to be played in Buenos Aires in October featuring Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar as the US team, garnered international media attention last week. Squashing rumor that Woods would receive appearance compensation Francisco Aleman, the Cup’s Sports Director, announced: “Any tournament in the world played under the umbrella of the PGA TOUR cannot allow any player to receive guarantees, so Tiger will not receive any fee for coming to play the tournament. But the PGA Tour gave us a big hand because they persuaded Kuchar and Tiger to come. The PGA Tour is very committed to the region.” Tiger for free... now that’s a deal.