Hideki Matsuyama defeated Kevin Na on the first playoff hole to claim his first PGA TOUR victory in his young, burgeoning career at the Memorial at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. After errant tee shots and second shots from both players, Matsuyama got up-and-down from the short side for par to clinch victory. Kevin Na never had a chance to hole his putt for five after he found the water off the tee. Bubba Watson, the 54-hole-leader, finished third to complete the podium. He’s now 0-5 career with the solo 54-hole lead.
Matsuyama began Sunday two shots back of the Masters champion but after running out in 32, he was tied for the lead on No. 10 tee. His sixth birdie of the day on No. 13 made him five-under on Sunday and 15-under for the week. It was his tournament to lose at the time and he almost did as he made double bogey on No. 16 after his tee shot found the water. He followed that with a bogey on No. 17 to fall out of a share of the lead with the magnificent Na (64, -13). But, for the fourth time in four days, the young Japanese birdied No. 18 and this forced the playoff and became the fourth, Japanese-born player to win on TOUR. He joins Ryuji Imada, Shigeki Maryuama and Isao Aoki in this club.
The playoff began on No. 18 so it was immediately advantage Matsuyama. His tee shot found the right bunker but Na’s found the creek wide left. Advantage Matsuyama part II. After hooking his bunker shot wide of the green and short-sided, he showed his class by finding the green. Na’s chip for a four raced by the hole and Matsuyama didn’t give him a chance to make it.
Matsuyama was making his first loops around Muirfield Village and, like Jordan Spieth, it’s time for gamers to look past is perceived “inexperience”. This dude can flat-out play and he showed it this week by racking up 24 birdies (2nd). His putter is usually his weapon of choice and he finished the week seventh in putts per GIR but was also T11 in fairways and T22 GIR. On a course he had barely seen he only made nine bogeys for the week. He turned 22 last February. With him and Jordan Spieth, the future of golf is in excellent hands for the coming years.
Matsuyama was trending in the right direction this week and he just missed out on making the Call due to his lack of experience around here. I’ll bet I’m not the only gamer learning week to week but none of us should be surprised that he had another great finish this week. After a pair of MCs at Augusta (80-71) and RBC Heritage (71-79) he’s rebounded in his last three starts. He posted T38 at WFC, T23 at THE PLAYERS and T10 last week at Colonial. Last week he was one of four 54-hole-co-leaders not to close the deal in Ft. Worth after he shot 64 on Saturday. It looks like he’s a quick study as he bounced back quite nicely this week.
Last season he burst on to the scene as he won four times in Japan. If that didn’t cure the skeptics, his seven events on TOUR should have. After MC at the Sony, he returned six months later at the U.S. Open and posted T10. His next stop was The Open Championship where he racked up another top 10 with T6. Not bad for his first two majors as a pro! In his third, the PGA Championship, he slumped to a T19. The week before the PGA he finished T21 at his first WGC tournament. Oh, and he was the Asian Amateur champ in 2010 and 2011. That’s some resume for a kid who just turned 22 in February!
Based on the above, I can’t find many reasons to not be encouraged about Matsuyama moving forward. The only problem I’ve noticed is that he has had a few injuries issues including a wrist and a back over the last nine months. That’s not exactly what I need to see from a 21-22 year old but there’s no questioning his talent on the course. Moving forward I don’t see what Matsuyama cannot improve on his 12 weekends from 15 starts in 2013-14. This was also his fourth top 10 so I think we can all agree that “flukey” is not a word to associate with him.
With his victory, Matsuyama collects $1,116,000 and 500 FedExCup points and all the other goodies that going along with winning on TOUR.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 21 of 29 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes and Brendon Todd have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Matsuyama joins Seung-yul Noh as the Asian representatives and Martin Kaymer is flying the flag for Europe with his victory.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd and Matsuyama are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had nine in 29 events so far in 2014. #onpace
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 15 of 28 leaders have gone on to win as Bubba Watson now is 0-5 in his career with the solo 54-hole lead.
Hideki Matsuyama tried to pull a “Sergio Garcia” by winning in his first attempt at Colonial. He didn’t. Hideki Matsuyama pulled a Hideki Matsuyama by winning his first attempt at Memorial. He’s the only player, besides the inaugural event, in the other 38 events to win on his first try.
Matsuyama makes only the eighth, foreign-born player to win the Memorial in 39 events. Justin Rose was the last to do so in 2011.
The last playoff at Muirfield was in 1992. Matsuyama was two months old. This was only the fourth playoff in history.
Tiger Woods was the youngest player to win at 23. Matsuyama is 22 and now takes over that record.
Woods remains the only player to defend his title as 2013 champ Matt Kuchar finished T15.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32) and Adam Scott (33) have also added to the Prime Timers total.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer (29), Brendon Todd, 28 and now Matsuyama, 22, are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10
Kevin Na: He joins the wrap up column for the fifth time this season. He’s recovered beautifully from his 2013 neck injury as he’s posted 12 weekends from 17 events and nine of those have gone for top 25s. His bogey-free 64 on Sunday was the round of the day and second best of the tournament (Rory McIlroy, 63) and moved him from T20 to the playoff. It’s never easy to sit around for over two hours to have to wait on a guy who just finished. Na proved that theory with his errant tee shot into the creek on the first playoff hole. He only made two bogeys in his final 56 holes as his ball-striking was the foundation this week. Na’s best finish at Muirfield in four starts entering the week was T34 with ONE round in the 60s. Course form didn’t bother to show up this week.
Bubba Watson: The solo 54-hole leader failed to convert the outright third round lead for the fifth time in his career. He made bogey on No. 14 and double on No. 15 to finish at even par 72 for the day and that was one shot short of making the playoff. Gamers who fired with Watson this week will be upset he didn’t close but T3 was his best finish at Muirfield by a mile (T23, twice). Watson’s incredible 2014 motors on, course form be damned! He’ll be my OAD at the Travelers the week after the U.S. Open.
Chris Kirk: In three priors at Jack’s place, Kirk had two MC and a T25 to show for his efforts. His T4 this week was on the back of him splitting fairways and holing putts, just like usual. Last week, he missed a short putt to hit the top 10 but that wasn’t a problem this week as his 66-68 bookends saw him have his best Sunday since solo second at the Sony. #alliteration He’s now been T30 in six of his last eight events and fired T13, T14 and T4 in his last three. #giddyup
Adam Scott: Looking to become the first player to win back-to-back on TOUR since McIlroy at the 2012 DBC and BMW, the Aussie joined the lead on 14-under after 11 holes on Sunday. He played his next seven holes in four-over to finish T4. He missed drivers, irons and a short putt so this was an equal opportunity disaster. Last week he got away with making a double on the back nine on Sunday. That wasn’t the case this week. He’s played all nine weekends he’s entered this year and has five top 10s.
Steve Stricker: He birdied three of his final six holes coming home to finish T6. This is his best finish since his 2011 championship and second top six in three years. Stricker’s ball-striking picked up his putter that was only T56 in strokes gained-putting. It took six events but the semi-retired cheese head finally cracked the top 10 in 2014. It’s hard to read a guy who plays so few events but he can pick and choose his schedule so I assume it is only on courses he loves.
Ben Curtis: The Kent State Flash and Stow, Ohio, native returned to The Takeaway since 2012 PLAYERS where he was T2. No wonder why he wasn’t on the radar this week. He also had MC in his last three events on TOUR. This was his third top 25 in 12 career starts at Muirfield as he was T10 SGP, T7 GIR and T11 in fairways. That led to only six bogeys on the week. One week won’t change my mind just yet.
Thorbjorn Olesen: The young Dane broke on to the scene in Europe in 2011 when he had three seconds in his first year on the European Tour. He won the Sicilian Open in April of 2012 and finished T9 at The Open that summer. He opened up 2013 with T17 at WGC-Match Play and added solo seventh at API and T6 in his first Masters. In his last six starts of last season he missed four cuts and his best finish was T40. Some argued that after he was in a car wreck prior to the SHO that he wasn’t the same. That form carried over to the 2013-14 season has he’s been cut in five of eight events including five of those seven in 2014. He did have back-to-back top 10s on the European Tour in late January/early February but that was four months ago. This was his also his first appearance at the Memorial.
Bill Haas: We joked in the Wednesday chat about Haas parring the course to death and he was close this week as he was T8 with 46 of them. Haas has now played 16 of 17 weekends and his T8 this week makes it 11 top 25s. This was his first top 10 since his T6 at Doral in early March. Haas needs to be back on the radar as he’s posted T44, T26, T21 and now T8 in his last four starts. He’s a GIR machine but his putter cooperated this week as he was ninth in SGP. Look for him to start heating up.
Luke Guthrie: In his last six events on TOUR he’s missed three cuts and had finishes of T64, T80 and 70th before his T8 this week. To be fair, he has made 13 of 18 weekends in the wrap-around season and has two top 10s in those 18 events. He had two top 10s in 27 events last year, his rookie campaign. He showed some moxie this week as he opened with 75 but busted back with 69-66-70 with the help of 22 birdies (T4). He’s too young to expect too much but I’ll keep an eye on him here in year two on TOUR.
Brendon Todd: Success can go to the head of most people but Brendon Todd is proving to be the antithesis of that analogy as he has backed up his maiden win on TOUR at HPBNC with T5 at Colonial and T8 this week at Memorial. It seems every week he’s in the top 10 in fairways hit and he’s an excellent putter. This week he continued to avoid bogeys as he only made eight of them. His 48 pars were seventh best. He’s currently 10th on TOUR in scoring average because of his nasty short game that works EVERYWHERE. It was also his first time playing at Jack’s place.
Charl Schwartzel: After shooting a million last time out at Wentworth, Schwartzel repaid gamers like me who put their wobbly eggs in his basket this week with T8. He was third for the week with 23 birdies because he hit 72% of GIR (T4). Not bad for a guy who was T60 in fairways! His last four on this side of the pond are a very steady T12, T48, T11 and T8 this week. At Memorial, he was the horse-for-course play this week as he has gone T27, T22, T19, T8 and T8 in his last five.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Adam Scott: T4, see above.
Matt Kuchar: T15 is his worst finish here in the last seven years. Read that again. He opened with 74 to send gamers in a panic but recovered quite nicely. No surprise that he hit a ton of fairways, greens and holed putts but that opening round was too much to overcome and his bogey-bogey finish on Sunday didn’t help either.
Justin Rose: Instead of making the cut on the number, Rose called a penalty on himself after reviewing his double hit during his second round. That wiped out his birdie-birdie finish that should have made him see the weekend. He struggled with the putter and that was the difference this week. In the last seven years at Jack’s place, Rose has finished T2, MC, WIN, MC, eighth, T8 and MC. #allornothing
Jim Furyk: A Kuchar-esque 73 to open saw Furyk playing catch-up for the rest of the week as well. His 56 pars were best in the field. So were his four bogeys. He’s in U.S. Open form! His T19 is his ninth top 25 in 12 events this season. Nice bounce back after T51 last week at Colonial but not the big finish gamers were looking for this week.
Rory McIlroy: He stirred up #TheThursdayArmy with his 63 to open but backed that up with 78 on Friday as a knee issue flared up. This isn’t the first time that McIlroy has fired a low one and backed it up with a big one but there is no doubt the lad is talented. Now he’ll have a knee issue to deal with which means we all have to deal with it but his current form is quite warm. This was his first finish outside T8 in his last six worldwide.
Dustin Johnson: He dropped 31 spots from T15 to T46 with his double-double-animal-style finish. God, I hate fantasy golf sometimes. He hit it all over the property and couldn’t putt but was T15 after 70 holes. I’m not deterred.
Luke Donald: He turned in five-under on Sunday after 34 to open but 40 of them on the back nine condemned Donald to T49. This was his first finish outside of T21 in his last five events at Muirfield. It would have been worse but his putter was on point and saved what was left of his bacon.
Jordan Spieth: He began the day in the top five again but his final round 75 knocked him down to T19. Gamers like me will not be thrilled with his double on the 72nd hole but is it any worse than Kuchar closing bogey-bogey? Or Johnson finishing double-double? I HAD ALL THREE IN MY LINEUP ON SUNDAY SO LEAVE ME ALONE. His ball-striking fell apart on Sunday as he hit six GIR and just over half of the fairways.
Charl Schwartzel: T8, see above.
Kevin Chappell: He MC by one as he racked up plenty of birdies offset with plenty of bogeys. An eagle was also erased by a double bogey. Last year’s runner-up breaks a streak of playing four weekends in a row on TOUR.
Brendon Todd: T8, see above.
Chris Kirk: T4, see above.
Gary Woodland: Cruising along at five-under entering the weekend, the big hitter needed 150 shots to finish up those two rounds. He was eight-under through 46 holes before he went all McIlroy with back-to-back-to-back doubles to wipe out six of those eight shots. On Sunday three birdies were cut up by six bogeys as the tire fire continued to burn bright. After seven events in a row of T26 or better, I’ll give him a pass on his T57.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the FedEx St. Jude Classic (FESJC) and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.