Luke Elvy: How Good Is Hideki Matsuyama?

With all the fanfare surrounding Jordan Spieth’s early days as a professional, what Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama has achieved has been somewhat overshadowed.

But is he as good as the American? You bet he is, he might even be better.

Hideki Matsuyama Hideki Matsuyama (Credit: www.golffile.ie)

Because the golf media machine is primarily driven from the United States, Spieth gets most of the attention, but a quick look at what both have achieved is eerily similar.

And now that Matsuyama has broken through in the US, we’ll start to hear more noise about this Japanese wunderkind.

At 22, Matsuyama is 18 months older than Spieth, but they turned professional within weeks of each other and have been climbing the world rankings at the same rapid pace.

After winning the Memorial Tournament, Hideki is now 13th while the Texan is 10th – very impressive considering they’ve only been pros for a year and a half.

Furthermore both have shown they have the games for the big time. Matsuyama recorded top 10s at Merion (US Open) and Muirfield (British Open) last year while Spieth was in the final group at The Masters and The Players this year. Nothing says ‘major player’ more than contending the big events early on, Jason Day style.

The Japanese star made his initial jumps up the OWGR by dominating at home racking up four wins in his maiden season.

While it’s not comparable to the PGA Tour, the Japanese Tour is not shy on talent and Matsuyama became the first rookie to ever top the money list… he did so by the length of the straight.

During that time, he also made the most of seven starts in PGA Tour sanctioned events finishing inside the top 25 in six of them, three were majors, that’s how he earned full status for the 2014 season. To do that with limited experience of U.S. courses and culture, in my opinion, is underplayed.

While Spieth’s arrival in the pro ranks was somewhat similar, albeit amongst harder competition, he had the benefit of doing it in familiar surrounds.

The life of an elite US Collegiate golfer is basically a dress rehearsal for the PGA Tour and he was far from awe struck when he stepped onto the big stage.

However, that’s not to diminish his achievements, winning as a teenager and contending another handful of times especially during the Playoffs was extraordinary.

More to illustrate the challenge international players face trying to make in America, especially those from Asia.

It was also interesting to note both ended their prolific rookie seasons as members of their respective Presidents Cup teams, with almost identical records.

Sadly, we were denied the young gun showdown in the singles to find out who was the worldwide Rookie of the Year.

While it will be fascinating to see who ends up with the better record in professional golf, here we are in the middle of 2014, a time where Tiger Woods’ future is uncertain, looking at the new world order.

There’s no doubt these two former amateur phenoms have added their names to that list.