2 things you can learn from Hideki Matsuyama’s heroic win at the Masters
Ten years after claiming low amateur honors, Hideki Matsuyama slipped on the green jacket. In so doing, he validated all of the praise and expectation heaped on his shoulders since his win at the 2014 Memorial Tournament.
As a member of the media, I’m supposed to be impartial, but I will happily admit that I was pulling for Matsuyama. Not just because he is a wonderful human being, but also because of the global implications of a player of Asian descent winning on golf’s grandest stage.
Lessons from the 2021 Masters were everywhere you looked. I could talk about the casual, free-swinging Will Zalatoris, or about Xander Schaufele and his run at another major.
However, this is Matsuyama’s moment and there are two great lessons to learn from him.
1. Get your putter flush with the ground
Matsuyama has battled with form on the greens over the last few seasons on Tour as he’s ranked 165th and 170th in SG: Putting over the last two years.
Ever diligent, he has worked hard on his form and, of late, he has modified his posture and address to get the sole of the putter flush to the ground. In the past he had the toe raised at address, like Isao Aoki or Seve Ballesteros.
Quality contact with the putter is a function of a square strike on the ball, not just horizontally (toe to heel), but also vertically (sole to crown) on the face. Just like your golf clubs, the sweet spot on the putter is centralized on the face. Bounce a ball on the face of your putter and the result will bear this out. If the toe of the club is raised through contact, excess wrist action can proliferate and a ball that is lined up over the sweet spot could still be marginally mishit.
Mishitting putts is a problem for many golfers, especially in the recreational game. Getting the sole of the putter flush to the ground can help with this as it promotes better contact, which in turn leads to better distance control. The end game is fewer three-putts.
To get that sole of the putter flush with the ground, try this easy checkpoint. Slide a coin under the toe and the heel at address, and if the putter is level with the turf there will not be a discrepancy between the gaps. This is a putter flush with the ground.
2. Short game is about the landing spot
Matsuyama had one of his best performances around the greens in recent memory at Augusta National. He was sublime around the greens and appeared to have a great understanding on trajectory, landing spots and release.
Larry Mize, the architect of one of the most famous pitch shots in Masters history, told me that when working on greenside shots he focuses on is the trajectory and landing spot of the shot.
Mize practices this by laying a hand towel on the green,and hitting shots from different lies and distances toward it. The goal is not finishing the ball on the towel, but instead landing it on the towel. After he has a distance dialed in, he then plays toward a hole, with the towel in the appropriate landing spot. Even when playing toward a hole his sole focus is clean contact and landing the ball on the towel.
This drill is a great one for dialing in your landing spot on the greens and improving your game around the greens.