Japanese golfing hero Hideki Matsuyama’s top five PGA Tour victories

Following his victory on home soil in the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP we take a look at the 29-year-old’s finest PGA Tour moments.

It's been quite a decade for Hideki Matsuyama.

Ten years ago, in November 2011, the then-amateur 19-year-old claimed a first victory on a professional tour, winning the prestigious Taiheyo Masters on his home circuit.

A few weeks ahead of the anniversary of that success he rounded off a remarkable year with triumph in the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP at Narashino Country Club.

Between those two peaks he also reached No. 1 in the world amateur rankings, turned professional in 2013, landed two top 10s in his first Major Championship starts in the pro ranks, lifted his Japan Tour victory total to nine, became a multiple winner on the PGA Tour, and a Major Champion in April this year.

He's become one of the world's finest players and one of Japan's greatest sporting heroes.

Let's take a closer look at his five greatest performances on the PGA Tour.

PGA Tour breakthrough at the 2014 Memorial Tournament

Bubba Watson could have won and Adam Scott should have won.

The two Major Champions instead made a mess of the closing holes, allowing Kevin Na and Matsuyama to sneak in and set up a play-off, but not before the watching Jack Nicklaus' face gave a damning verdict of Watson and Scott.

"It suggested mild disgust, perhaps frustration, and maybe even, 'Geez, I would have whipped these guys,'" wrote Bob Harig for ESPN.

The pair were the combined winners of the previous three Masters titles and yet it was the man who would win that title seven years later who triumphed.

Matsuyama had played the tournament host club Muirfield Village in the previous year's Presidents Cup, playing alongside Scott, and that experience proved vital.

Nicklaus was impressed, saying in his own press conference, after Matsuyama bested Na: "I think you've just seen the start of what's going to be truly one of the world's great players over the next 10 to 15 years."

First victory in elite company at the 2016 WGC HSBC Champions

Matsuyama began 2016 with a second win on the PGA Tour, at the WM Phoenix Open, but further success in the year proved a more stubborn hurdle to clear.

Eventually, after returning home to win the Japan Open, he finally sailed it in China.

It was his first World Golf Championship victory and came in sensational fashion.

Rounds of 66-65 opened up a three shot halfway lead, a Saturday 68 maintained that advantage, and a final round 66 extended it to seven.

His final round playing partners were left in awe of his effort.

"Hideki played just unbelievable and it was a pleasure to watch," said Daniel Berger. "He's struck it well. He's putted well. He's chipped well. He's done everything well, and that's why he's won by so many."

"He was brilliant," said Russell Knox. "No weaknesses the last two days. He drove the ball well and far, and his iron play was very good. And he made it look very easy."

Destroying the field at the 2017 WGC Bridgestone Invitational

To win one WGC event by a huge margin is one thing.

To win a second in that fashion is the sign of something special.

2017 started just as the previous year had done - with victory at TPC Scottsdale in the WM Phoenix Open.

It was a year when he threatened to win a Major: he was T11th at the Masters (albeit fast-finishing), second in the US Open, T14th at the Open and would finish fifth in the PGA Championship (after leading at halfway).

Before the last two of those efforts he would torch Firestone Country Club, and also the field, at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational.

He entered the final round two shots behind the leaders, alone in fourth, with Rory McIlroy on his shoulder.

But no-one could live with him.

Matsuyama thrashed a brilliant 61 that didn't merely overhaul the leaders, it left them in his wake.

He won by five.

Major Championship glory at the 2021 Masters

A four year wait to grab his sixth PGA Tour titles, but it was worth it.

He hadn't made a top 10 in his 10 starts for the year and he admitted it had been a struggle, but it all changed in practice on Wednesday.

"I felt something in my swing," he explained after completing a one shot victory over debutant Will Zalatoris. "When that happens, the confidence returns. I started the tournament with a lot of confidence."

Covid restrictions also had a profound impact on this win. Matsuyama is typically followed around at all Major Championships by a Japanese media scrum that can be somewhat overwhelming for a fellow who doesn't enjoy the limelight.

After the third round, he was asked about the smaller press posse surrounding him and said: "I'm not sure how to answer this in a good way, but being in front of the media is still difficult.

"I'm glad the media are here covering it, but it's not my favourite thing to do, to stand and answer questions. With fewer media, it's been a lot less stressful for me and I've enjoyed this week."

Triumph on home soil in the 2021 ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP

In the wake of his Masters triumph, there was little to cheer for Matsuyama fans and his form dropped off.

He had a brief (and well-timed) upturn in high summer, forcing his way into a play-off for the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics (which he lost) and finishing second in the WGC St Jude, but the form fizzled out again and on return to home soil for the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP at Narashino Country Club he marked his form as nothing better than one out of ten.

Four days later he had completed a fine five shot victory and yet was still a little underwhelmed by his golf.

"I would rate my performance as two or three," he said. "From the results perspective, it went about to eight, but I think it's because all of the energy that I was getting from the fans and I was very surprised how much energy I was feeding off of them.

"Yes, that's how I honestly felt. My confidence was around one or two, but thanks to all the Japanese crowd out there, I was able to feed off of their energy and play well."

READ MORE: Hideki Matsuyama emulates Tiger Woods with Masters and ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP victory double

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