JAPANESE GOLFER HIDEKI MATSUYAMA HAS TAKEN THE GOLF WORLD BY STORM, AND HE IS CLOSING IN ON THE SPORT’S TOP 10 RANKINGS. WHAT’S MORE, HE HAS ONLY BEEN A PRO FOR JUST OVER A YEAR. WE SPEAK TO THE 22-YEAR-OLD ABOUT WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN.
Hideki Matsuyama is talking shop. “I aim for victory in every tournament,” the 22-year-old says, not without swagger. “I compete with the sole purpose of winning.”
This is Japan’s most exciting young golfer, a sportsman whose brief but burgeoning career is already laden with noteworthy titles. In 2010, at the age of 18, he won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. He took golfing gold at the World University Games a year later. And last year he won four tournaments on the Japan Golf Tour, the country’s preeminent golf circuit, becoming the first rookie ever to claim the tour’s money title. (He has won five tournaments on the tour in total.) Even more impressive: it was his first year as a professional.
As of late May, Matsuyama was ranked number 26 in the world – a ranking he plans to improve. He considers himself to be playing at only 20 percent of his ideal performance level, he says, before reeling off a list of minute flaws obvious to him but pretty much invisible to anyone who has seen him play.
“I’m still lacking in physical and mental strength,” he explains, “and in technique. I have balance, but I haven’t acquired a definitive advantage to win on the world stage. I’d like to master a more accurate and controlled approach.”
Nonetheless, up the world rankings is the only direction Matsuyama is likely to travel, thanks in part to the backing of Lexus. (As a brand dedicated to craftsmanship, Lexus decided to sponsor Matsuyama in support of his promise and unrelenting pursuit of his craft). The golfer speaks measuredly about progress, and he is permanently focused. You sense in his words the spirit of a real competitor, someone who will do all it takes to win, and win well. In June he won his first title on the PGA Tour. More will likely follow.
“I consider golf to have no goals,” he says. “It’s no good simply winning, and there’s no point in putting in an ideal performance if you don’t win. That’s why it’s fun. My current aim is to win the four major championships. If I can win the battle against myself, I don’t think it’s a dream.”
Frankly, neither does anyone else.
The year Matsuyama teamed up with Lexus,
a brand whose belief in continuous
improvement the golfer shares.
PAR FOR THE COURSE
Matsuyama’s height in centimeters.
The Japanese golfer isn’t the tallest on the tour,
but he makes up for it in strength
“I AIM FOR
Matsuyama’s world ranking as of late May.
It is a ranking he plans to improve; reaching
the world’s top 10 is his ultimate goal.
Matsuyama’s current age. He is 16 years
younger than golfing great Tiger Woods.
The age at which Matsuyama first picked up
a club and started playing golf.
THE NEXT STEP
The total score Matsuyama achieved at the
Jack Nicklaus Memorial Tournament 2014,
the first PGA Tour title the golfer has won.
WITH THE SOLE
MATSUYAMA ON LEXUS
“Lexus is known as a world-class luxury brand,
and we share a passion for our craft.
I’m delighted to be competing as a Lexus player.”
TEXT BY KOSUKE KAWAKAMI