Will Hideki Matsuyama Regain Some Previous Magic in 2023?

Media by Associated Press: Hideki Matsuyama, of Japan, puts on his sunglasses on the ninth green during the first round of the Sony Open golf tournament, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Winning the 2021 Masters Tournament was supposed to project Hideki Matsuyama into superstardom, making him the global icon of golf on par with the likes of Tiger Woods in the sport and Ichiro Suzuki, and Shohei Ohtani from the country of Japan. 


Perhaps it’s too early to confirm, but so far Matsuyama hasn’t necessarily made the jump to the elite of the elite. He’s just 21st in the OWGR, but also still only 30 years old so can we see a push by Matsuyama in 2023. 


Matsuyama Seems So Close to Dominance 


Matsuyama had a successful career even before finally getting the breakthrough win at Augusta two years ago. He is a former winner of the Memorial and the WM Phoenix Open, which usually draw very competitive fields, and he got up to #2 in the OWGR in 2017 with three Tour victories. 


Matsuyama went on a three-year Tour drought before claiming his first green jacket in April of 2021. Later in the year he was in contention for a bronze at the Olympics but lost out in a 7-man playoff, and also missed out on a win a week later at the FedEx-St. Jude Invitational lost to Abraham Ancer in a playoff. 


Matsuyama picked up a major win in 2021, but was close to two other Tour victories (also got 2nd at the Houston Open) and failed to medal in front of his countrymen at the Tokyo Olympics. That’s a good year – but also a disappointing one when your expectations get as high as Matsuyama’s are. 


The 2021/22 season was decent for Matsuyama, starting with getting some Japanese redemption by winning the Zozo Championship in October – the only PGA event held in his home country. He was back in the winner’s circle just two tournaments later (although that was in January) by taking the Sony Open in Hawaii and everybody was thinking this is a breakout year. 


It turns out that after the win at the Sony Open in Hawaii, Matsuyama’s next-best finish of the season was a third at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He did come in 4th in the U.S. Open, but is still stuck on just the one major win, and fans continue to be left wanting more. 


Any Optimism for 2023? 


Things look kind of bleak for Matsuayma heading into 2023 based on his Fall performance. He couldn’t repeat at the Zozo Championship (40th) even as a +1100 on the odds table and even before that he had a disappointing 1-3-1 showing at the Presidents Cup even as he was supposed to be the best player on the International Team. 


The Presidents Cup might have messed Matsuyama up mentally, as it was in Quail Hollow where he finished T4 at the 2017 PGA Championship. Instead of being the face of the International Team, Matsuyama was shown up by his own teammate Tom Kim, the 20-year-old who brought some life and energy to the squad even in a losing effort. 


After the Presidents Cup, Matsuyama was 40th at the Zozo, T34 at the CJ Cup, and had to withdraw at the Houston Open, citing a neck injury. You can’t judge somebody else’s health, but in 2022 Matsuyama withdrew from the Player’s Championship (back), Texas Open (neck), 3M Open (wrist soreness after a first-round 77), the FedEx-St. Jude (neck), as well as the Houston Open. 


If Matsuyama was a stock, you’d be selling in 2023 because his biggest injury might be a mental one.


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