Native son Hideki Matsuyama leads despite brutal rain, cold conditions in Japan
Never one to gloat — rather, he more often seems upset with anything that’s average — Hideki Matsuyama was short in discussing his second-round 68 Friday in Japan.
“It wasn’t a perfect round,” he said. “But I played well. I’m happy with it.”
He’s right about it not being a perfect round. He did make one bogey, after all. But through 36 holes at the Zozo Championship, he should definitely be happy with it. He holds a one-shot lead entering the weekend in his home country.
Matsuyama began the day one shot behind fellow Japanese golfer Hiroshi Iwata, but conditions soured for both them and the entire field. Narashino Country Club, located just northeast of Tokyo, saw temperatures drop into the mid-50s Friday while showers blanketed the course. “This was a day that I’ve been concerned about for quite a while,” said Brendan Steele. “I’m from California, I do not play in the rain. When it rains, I stay inside.”
There was nothing fun about it, and the scoring reflected that. Xander Schauffele carded a 74. Will Zalatoris a 76. Collin Morikawa’s two-under day moved him up 22 spots on the leaderboard. So Matsuyama had better be happy with that 68.
“It’s not often that we play in rain and cold at the same time,” he said. “But I’m happy with the round and it was a good day.”
Matsuyama has never been long-winded in his descriptions of his own game or performance. Even when he won the Masters in April. But earlier this week he did mention how little confidence he had in his game at the moment. “If my game scored 10 out of 10 at the Masters, now I would say it scores less than 1,” he said Tuesday. “I will be struggling this week but I am here in Japan so I am motivated to be in contention.”
Sometimes that’s all that it takes. Matsuyama had his homeland magic flowing during the Olympics this summer, battling with eventual gold medal winner Xander Schauffele all the way down the stretch. With a crowd of Olympics volunteers following his every move, he narrowly missed out on a medal, losing to CT Pan in the 7-way playoff for a bronze.
Matsuyama will play alongside Cameron Triangle and Matt Wallace Saturday. The rain will have subsided by then, and the temperatures a bit more balmy. Golf fans in America can tune in late Friday night, as the leaders start off at 9:50 p.m. ET.