AT&T Byron Nelson: Is Masters hero Hideki Matsuyama a good bet on his comeback this week?

A look at first-time Major winners and whether they flourish or flop when returning to the course after their breakthrough success.

Thirty two days after slipping his arms into the Green Jacket, Hideki Matsuyama will tee it up in a golf tournament again.

But this time it will feel different. This time he will be announced onto the first tee as a Major champion after his brilliant victory at Augusta National.

For punters, that leads to an obvious question: will Matsuyama walk tall and produce the golf that took him to glory at the Masters? Or will he suffer a comedown from that extraordinary high.

Everything is a whirlwind for a new Major winner as media commitments suddenly take a sharp spike. And, as Japan's first male to make the breakthrough, it's been exaggerated for Matsuyama.

The extra distractions would offer an obvious excuse for a poor comeback performance but they aren't the only element in the mix.

So attempting to predict how the 29-year-old will perform at this week's AT&T Byron Nelson in Texas seems almost impossible.

In theory, his odds of 22/1 at William Hill to win the tournament could look generous. Should a newly-crowned Masters winner really be longer odds than two players - Scottie Scheffler and Matt Fitzpatrick - who haven't even won a regular event on the PGA TOUR?

To try and help solve the puzzle, the frequency of new Major winners in recent years at least gives us plenty of source material.

Here, Planet Sport looks at how those champions fared when playing for the first time since their thunderclap moment...

How first-time Major winners performed next time out

(Also listed: how many weeks each player took off before returning)

Bryson DeChambeau (2020 US Open) - T8 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (two weeks off)

Collin Morikawa (2020 PGA Championship) - Missed Cut The Northern Trust (one week off)

Shane Lowry (2019 Open Championship) - T52 The Northern Trust (two weeks off)

Gary Woodland (2019 US Open) - Missed Cut Rocket Mortgage Classic (one week off)

Francesco Molinari (2018 Open Championship) - T39 WGC-Bridgestone (one week off)

Patrick Reed (2018 Masters) - T8 Wells Fargo Championship (three weeks off)

Justin Thomas (2017 PGA Championship) - T6 The Northern Trust (one week off)

Sergio Garcia (2017 Masters) - T30 PLAYERS Championship (four weeks off)

Jimmy Walker (2016 PGA Championship) - Missed Cut Wyndham Championship (two weeks off)

Henrik Stenson (2016 Open Championship) - T7 PGA Championship (one week off)

Danny Willett (2016 Masters) - Missed Cut PLAYERS Championship (four weeks off)

Conclusions

That's quite the mixed bag!

Since the start of 2016, 11 players have become first-time Major winners. Their results have varied markedly when returning to action. Here's the breakdown.

Four posted a top 10 next time out

Four missed the cut next time out

Three finished from 30th to 52nd

In terms of a betting strategy, the fact that seven of the 11 finished tied 30th or worse suggests it's best to leave such players alone or even actively oppose them.

The last two new Major winners who took just a week off - Morikawa and Woodland - both missed the cut. That suggests they didn't give themselves time to mentally recover.

However, Thomas and Stenson both made the top seven after a similar short break.

Matsuyama has taken four weeks off, the same as Garcia and Willett who went on to finish T30 and MC respectively next time.

While taking time to breathe out seems smart, perhaps having a month away allows a little rust to build up.

Of course, it's a small sample size and a lot could depend on where exactly their next tournament was played. Was it a favoured course or one where they've struggled previously?

And, as his country's first male Major winner and having to travel home during a pandemic, Matsuyama has had to deal with different accolades, emotions and experiences to others.

So what exactly has Hideki been up to since his Masters triumph? He revealed his heady last few weeks in Tuesday's press conference.

On what happened next after August glory

"I was able to go back to Japan. The first two weeks, though, I spent quarantined but after that I was able to spend time with my wife and little girl, able to visit my family home and see my parents and family there. So it's been good.

"Probably the one thing that stands out is I got back to Japan and I was quarantined for two weeks and I was able to probably read every news article and newspaper and magazine and TV. And seeing how the Masters win was portrayed in Japan was great, really unforgettable, and that really stands out for my trip back to Japan."

On how he felt seeing himself all over the TV and newspapers

"A bit embarrassing. I'm not used to all that attention, but grateful that people took notice."

On his new goals after claiming a first Major

"After you win a tournament and you make some adjustments and you go on, but this time going back to Japan and really not picking up a club much over there, I didn't get to practice very much at all. And then coming back here, and I'm just, really one of my goals now is just to try to find my game again and prepare for the PGA Championship next week."

Matusyama is 28/1 at Paddy Power to win the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

On how many times he's worn the Green Jacket

"I brought the Green Jacket back to Japan. Very proud to be able to show it to my parents and family and friends. I wore it twice in Japan. The first time was at a media press conference and then again I wore it when I was able to meet with the prime minister of Japan. I received an award from him."

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