Enigmatic Hideki Matsuyama takes one shot lead into the final round of the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP

The home hero carded a solid third round of 68 to edge clear of Cameron Tringale at Narashino Country Club.

Ever since he first emerged in the professional game Hideki Matsuyama has been something of an enigma.

At the Open this year a journalist noted that he rarely says anything in his English language press conferences.

The tournament translator noted: "He doesn't say much in Japanese either."

The Masters champion's reluctance to chatter is a ploy - his home media is voracious, his fan base huge; he was quite open in suggesting that the limited press attendance at Augusta National in April helped him win the Green Jacket.

This week in the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP at Narashino Country Club he has no option but to face the music with the huge galleries roaring their approval.

He heads into the final round in a dominant position: he leads Cameron Tringale by one stroke on 10-under 200, with the trio of players in a tie for third (Sebastian Munoz, Matt Wallace and Brendan Steele) a further three blows in arrears.

The home hero had actually started the 54th hole three shots clear of his nearest pursuer, but they swapped bogey and birdie on the par-5 18th.

Having played, for the most part, brilliantly in his Saturday 68, Matsuyama then put on quite the performance in his brief chat to the media.

It was pure Matsuyama, beginning with an almost brutally simple assessment of the situation.

"I'll win if I play well and lose if I don't," he said. "I've been playing good golf these past three days. I'm happy to be leading and will do my best tomorrow."

Then he threw in a riddle.

"Everyone else's idea of consistency is different to the consistency that I'm pursuing," he said, an absolutely intriguing notion, a hint of something almost Zen-like, that, alas, wasn't followed up.

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All of this coming after the man himself rated his pre-tournament chances at 1 out of 10!

Maybe that explains his rather downbeat final words ahead of Sunday: "It won't be easy, but I want to get myself prepared to play well tomorrow."

He'll be chasing a seventh PGA Tour career win and is the clear favourite.

Let's take a closer look at the leading contenders and a few stats.

Hideki Matsuyama - leader on 10-under

His 54 hole lead is the 12th of his career and he's converted eight of those positions in victories. On the PGA Tour his record is 2-for-5.

He's leading the Greens in Regulation stats through the first three rounds (44 of 54) as he chases a second win of 2021.

The big concern is the pressure he clearly feels under.

Cameron Tringale - solo second on 9-under

The American is making his 314th start on the PGA Tour and he is yet to win.

It's only the second time in his career that he has been solo second with 18 holes to play (the first time he finished fifth in the 2011 Texas Open).

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He has shared second on another three occasions, most recently at the start of this month in the Sanderson Farms Championship when he responded with a 71 to finish T11th.

He said: "I'm obviously not going to win anyone over, but I'm just enjoying the moment. The crowds are really respectful and fun and happy, so I'm trying to mirror that back to them and let them know I'm enjoying being here. I'll just keep playing and we'll see how it shakes out."

What the chasers said

Matt Wallace: "I don't know if Hideki's let us in. Guy's a stud of a player. He made one bad swing on the day and he bogeyed the last hole. I got shafted a bit out there, played pretty decent, got some bad luck. The fans are unbelievable. That's why I wanted to hole that putt on the last so I could get in the final group, but not going to happen. They're amazing, so polite, clapping us on to every tee. Amazing fans."

Brendan Steele: "I'm completely worn out, but I've been sleeping really well here, so hopefully I get a good night's sleep and come out with some energy tomorrow."

Sebastian Munoz: "I think same game plan tomorrow. I'm feeling good the way I'm driving the ball, just have to wait for the putts to drop. The wind's making it tricky, so we'll see what happens. Just feeling good."

Collin Morikawa: "Obviously I'm going to have to go make birdies tomorrow. Hideki's obviously not going to make a bunch of bogeys, but we'll see where the day ends. We always feel like we're always within striking distance and just got to get off to a good start. On the front nine there's a few birdie holes, especially the first two holes, so we'll see what we can do then."


Matsuyama is good with a lead and it helps him that the closer pursuers are not a massive threat: Tringale and Wallace are seeking first PGA Tour wins, Steele and Munoz are not prolific winners.

Big-hitters may feel confident about Matsuyama at 4/5 with PlanetSportBet.

If pockets are not so deep, the positive words of Munoz might attract. The Colombian was part of the tie for third at the Tokyo Olympics in August and he could pounce at 22/1 if Matsuyama wilts.

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