For a man who likes to fly under the radar, the Zozo Championship was a huge challenge last week. So it’s a shame that Hideki Matsuyama, the reserved Japanese player and Masters Champion, already has a lot of experience shouldering the expectations of a golf-crazy nation in a tournament on home soil. And if the memory of his last appearance – the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, where Matysuyama was eliminated in a playoff – still hurts, then the 26-year-old has certainly used the near-win as an inspiration to do his best. As we’ve seen over the past couple of seasons, when the man with the break comes up with the song at the height of his backswing, he’s very hard to fault and almost impossible to keep up with. I wasn’t surprised when Matsuyama, after piercing a blinker to take the lead last day, simply snatched the title and hit the gas, well out of reach of the pursuers.
For critics who might point to a less than full field; There’s no such thing on the PGA Tour these days. With top players like the Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele (who coveted the Matsuyama’s crown so ardently), a resurrected Rickie Fowler who finally signaled a return to his form by winning the CJ Cup in Las Vegas recently – among a hodgepodge of top – It was no walk in the park for Matsuyama when it came to ranking players. Mainly because the event took place in Japan – the home advantage works the other way around here. For those who fail to understand the unique social pressures the Japanese face to succeed not only for themselves but for the country as well, Matsuyama’s victory was a spectacular confirmation of the player’s coming of age. Don’t be surprised if he’s with that monkey on his back right now.
Fowler almost won the CJ Cup and this is great to see after nearly two seasons in the cold the young player worked on his golf swing. Fowler brings the appeal of the game to millennials – the game needs him almost as much as he needs the game.
As I continued to review the LPGA Order of Merit, I was surprised to see Korean Jin Young Ko won the Race to CME and finished the season as the top ranked golfer in the world. Now I admit that the LPGA site not only keeps me up to date with news and events, but also to see aspiring players whose golf shots I have been able to watch. The only thing I understood a long time ago was that it is a much better idea to watch female pros to get a feel for the rhythm and pace of the golf swing than the men who have been playing the ball for at least several years hammer. For those who do not subscribe to this line of thought, may I suggest a quick look at Ko’s golf swing, and not just for the reasons given.
Ko has a unique action modeled on what the old Scottish pros said about “turning in a barrel”. It remains absolutely centered on the golf ball throughout the swing; Your weight never goes beyond the insides of your feet on either side and your spine angle just stays incredibly constant. I wouldn’t recommend copying Ko’s swing: she obviously has incredible lower body strength to swing the way she does. But it’s a great illustration that it doesn’t matter which swing technique you join – whatever and however you swing just do the job. Consequent.
It’s also a good time to get your swing back in shape; What about wonderful pre-winter days in the capital and the perfect sweet spot of the year when you just want to go out and play.
I’ve been going through a bit of a lean spell lately when it comes to scoring – a fight that got me juggling between my old Ping Zing beryllium copper clubs, my modern day Titleist AP2s, and now back to my TaylorMade MBs – up looking for clubs that will get my mojo back. Finally, while watching Ko’s swing a few days ago, it occurred to me: I can’t stay that stable on the ball, but if I just try to watch the ball until it’s gone, at least it’ll get somewhere! I know we’ve heard this a thousand times, but when golfing, it’s the simple things that we forget and it’s the little things that make a big difference. As the corporate golf season starts, I hope that, like all of you, I will be in good shape after the Covid-imposed hiatus.
Quite differently, I recently came across news about the reopening of Mauritius to Indian tourists. For those who have never played golf in the islands of the Indian Ocean, I cannot emphasize enough golfing knowledge of the Seychelles and Mauritius. Both are Valhallas, rich in golf courses and resorts of all kinds, but Mauritius is significantly cheaper to visit and play. The island state is also somewhat bizarre known to the Indians, who are in a foreign country largely populated by the Indian diaspora. I’ll stop here – golf trips to these areas need their own report. When I get out of this daydream, I wonder if I am hexing things by dreaming of playing golf on strange shores again. Fingers crossed, people.
One golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game
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