Monday Scramble: Zozo win continues dream year for Hideki Matsuyama, Japan

Hideki Matsuyama shines at home, Jin Young Ko keeps cruising, rising stars take the next step at Q-School and more in this week’s edition of the Monday Scramble:

The dream year for Hideki Matsuyama continues.

Quiet for a few months after he became the first Japanese male to win a major at the Masters, the subdued superstar roared home with three birdies and an eagle Sunday to capture the Zozo Championship in front of the home fans. It was the first time Matsuyama had won in his homeland since 2016, and his rockstar status just rose a few more levels.

Unfortunately, on-site, it wasn’t the kind of hero’s reception he would have received in non-COVID times. But this was still quite a scene on the 72nd hole, which Matsuyama eagled to win by five shots over Cameron Tringale and Brendan Steele:

“It was one of my biggest goals to win in front of the Japanese fans here,” he said.

Though Matsuyama might never be the most charismatic champion, the victory, his seventh on Tour, was a deeply personal triumph and a fitting capstone to his life-changing year. It’s also the widest we’ve seen him smile … ever, maybe? 

One of the biggest golf stories of the year has been Japan’s golden campaign.

Think about it:

• Tsubasa Kajitana took home the Augusta National Women’s Amateur

• Matsuyama delivered at the Masters

• Tournament officials successfully staged an Olympics amid COVID

• Mone Inami grabbed the silver medal

• Keita Nakajima ascended to the No. 1 amateur spot

• And then Matsuyama dazzled at home at the Zozo

That doesn’t even include Yuka Saso, who is half Japanese, breaking through at the U.S. Women’s Open, or Nasa Hataoka twice adding to her win total on the LPGA.

What’s the reason for so much successive success?

Coincidental timing, surely, especially since Matsuyama’s career had seemingly stalled since 2017. But there is a bevy of young, talented Japanese amateurs in the pipeline – they represent three of the top 12 in the world rankings – and also those, like Takumi Kanaya, who tied for seventh at the Zozo, just starting out.

Now 29, Matsuyama has undoubtedly inspired the next generation of Japanese players, and the environment in the golf-mad country is conducive for even more growth.

Meet the new No. 1. Same as the old No. 1.

That’s Jin Young Ko, who kept right on rolling at the BMW Ladies Championship, where she overcame a four-shot deficit in the final round to shoot 64 and prevail in a playoff.

That’s now four wins in her last seven starts (and two in a row) for Ko, who leapfrogged Nelly Korda and returned to the top spot in the world for the first time since late June. With 21 of her last 25 rounds in the 60s, Ko is now 90 under par during that stretch and – without a doubt – the player to beat over the final few events.

Her timing couldn’t have been better.

Just as we’d started to proclaim that Korda was the dominant force for the foreseeable future,…

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Read More: Monday Scramble: Zozo win continues dream year for Hideki Matsuyama, Japan 2021-10-25 13:30:00

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