Hideki Matsuyama's fellow peers and team-mates explain what he's really like on and off the course
Hideki Matsuyama won The Masters to become the first person from Japan to win at Augusta National. He is also the first man from Japan to win a golf Major.
Below are some of the thoughts of Matsuyama from his fellow pros.
I play the Japan Open every year, and I convinced Hideki to play one year, and they paired myself, Hideki and Ryo Ishikawa together the first two days, and it reminded me of teeing off at Torrey Pines 1, 2 and 3 in the world back in ’08. Hideki and Ryo are superstars, and Hideki ended up winning that tournament. I didn’t get much thanks for convincing him to play, but that’s OK. But he’s a bit like a Tiger Woods to the rest of the world, Hideki in Japan.
I think he’s really living in his own world a bit, and partly the language barrier he has over here. I think he probably knows a little more English than he lets on, but it’s easy for him to kind of put the blinkers on and really not get distracted by much noise. In the rain delay on Saturday he watched something on his phone in the car for an hour. Goodness knows what he was watching, but probably not many other guys out here were sitting in the car, they were standing around talking with the caddies or something like that I can imagine.
It’s amazing because the amount of times you see him one-hand a follow-through to 15 feet makes me cringe because I’d like a bit of that. But he’s got really a strong technique. I think he knows his own fundamentals very well, and he doesn’t stray much from it.
He and I have been out to dinner a few times and really like playing with him. Love his caddie. They’ve got a good team. We go through his translator Bob just to keep the conversation flowing a little, but he knows what I’m talking about.
It’s always Asian. We always go get sushi. He loves sushi. When I played in the Dunlop Phoenix, he invited me to dinner and the restaurant shut down for him. He ordered for me. Yeah, that was a little more like kind of the raw sushi, like the stuff was living, and then it was killed and we ate it right away.
He’s got a great demeanour about him. He seems to handle the pressure so well. It’s a hard lifestyle living over here. I think his wife and kid are at home, and I know that’s hard. I know he wants to be there more. He’s chosen a career on the PGA Tour and he’s got a humble attitude about him.
I remember losing a play-off to him at Memorial. He’s an amazing player. I told him early in his career when I played with him, I said, you’ve got to be a major champion some day; you’re that good. I actually played in a pro-am with him in Sony Open when he was an amateur and I was the pro in the group, and it’s nice to see.
I remember the feeling on a four-shot lead, and he’s got Japan on his back and maybe Asia on his back. I can’t imagine kind of how that was trying to sleep on that, even with somebody who’s had so much success. I think the way he’s been able to withstand it, it’s really good for the game of golf globally. He’s a great young player who inevitably was going to win major championships, in my opinion. I know it’s his first win in quite a while, so I can also relate to that.
Hideki is obviously quiet. You know, he’s doing his own thing, but it’s all down to business when it comes to the course. He’s a fun guy. He’s nice being around with. He’s all around just a great player, and when he gets it sort of dialled in like he did that back nine on Saturday, he backs himself a lot, and he hits the shot that needs to be hit.
Hiis iron play is ridiculous. Every time I play with him, he hits his irons, and they’re nice and close every time. I remember actually playing with him in the last round of the Asian Amateur, the one that he won over in Singapore, and he just flushed it all day. We couldn’t catch him.
He’s a classic guy. We’ve seen it not just here and in his display on Saturday but he’s a guy who’s played all around the world and can turn in amazing numbers on some of the toughest courses in the world. To be honest, there’s a lot of guys, but he might be the top of the list.
In Melbourne it was really funny because we didn’t get to know each other too much, and that way we got to know each other a lot. We got to do everything together. So every time I saw him, he would come up to me, let’s go, Niemann. It was funny to hear that word from him because you never hear him say anything. He was funny.
His caddie is awesome too. We’ve had a lot of fun when we play together. Obviously, we don’t speak much, but we can understand, and we can like see in the eyes when you’re laughing or something funny happen.
I don’t think he feels any pressure from his country. I think what he’s doing right now, he wants to win, and he’ll be driven by himself. I don’t think he would do it with the pressure of all the country like looking at him.
He was actually very funny (at the Presidents Cup). He doesn’t know much English but we had a great time. He was a great team player. He can win any week. He’s one of the guys that I feel like he obviously should have won more with his ability. He’s been out here for a while now, and he’s still very young, but he’s a cool guy. He’s got a lot of talent, and he’s got everything to win here and really anywhere.
When I was there for the ZOZO last year, the people watching him and Tiger was – it was like a major. So for him to get this W, it’s huge for Japan. I had no idea how big the following was down there, and it was amazing.
It will be quite ironic because 10 years ago, when I won the green jacket, he was low amateur. So he was sitting next to me when I was at presentation. So that will be a nice little story to have.
When he gets going, he’s a guy that feeds off confidence. He can get down on himself, he sets high expectations.
I felt sorry for him on Saturday night because I think last night was probably one of the hardest sleeps he’s ever had. The last couple years, he looks like he struggled a little bit with the putting maybe but this game is such small margins.
He was a great team-mate. I played with him at Liberty. We lost that day but he’s just a good guy.