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Hideki Matsuyama Became The First Japanese Golfer To Win A Major After He Applied Some Rules To His Style

The RSNG Team

Hideki Matsuyama is known as much for his unique swing as being the first Japanese Golfer to win a major, but he says developing it – along with his short game – has given him the consistency to beat the best…

RSNG Your victory at Augusta in the Masters was a historic moment in that you became the first Japanese golfer to win a major – how important was that for you? HIDEKI MATSUYAMA, RECORD BREAKING GOLFER “Obviously it is a great mental barrier to overcome. I am driven and a little bit of a perfectionist, and when you achieve something so great that you have dreamed of for many years, it puts a line on the paper and that feels like a great relief. I have dreamed about winning a major for so long, and that emotion is still very strong.”

“What’s interesting is that almost immediately afterwards my thoughts went from ‘I don’t have to worry about not winning one now’, to ‘now I have to worry about only ever winning one.’”

“That is who I am – I have to strive for the next thing.”

RSNG You have developed your own unique swing, but you are one of the most consistent on the PGA Tour so what elements of it have you worked on and how have you made it work for you? HIDEKI MATSUYAMA “My swing was always about control. I interlock my fingers and have done that for a long time. I have experimented with more conventional operations and set-ups but when I don’t interlock I actually feel my palms sliding, so this is why I use this method.”

“What I would say I’ve worked on most in recent years has been my putting. My long game has always been close to where I wanted it to be, but it was when I found myself on the green that I realized I wasn’t making the scores that I should have been.”

“The best thing I was taught with putting is that you will only ever putt with one hand – if you are using both hands to drive the club head, you are doing it wrong”

RSNG What advice would you have for our readers looking to improve their short game? HM “I have used lots of different clubs for approach shots and for putting, and the results have often varied.”

“I think the best thing I was taught with putting is that you will only ever putt with one hand. If you are using both hands to drive the club head, you are doing it wrong. That was revolutionary for me. I would then practise for a long time with a single hand, bringing in my other hand just to steady the club once I had hit a good rhythm.”

“I don’t think this was the only thing that propelled my short game, but it was the main thing.”

RSNG What do you think is more important in golf: speed or accuracy? HM “What is the saying we have in Japan – speed will lead you to the hole, accuracy will put you in the hole.”

“In terms of my driving, I have slowed my swing down much more than I ever used to, but it is an important differentiation between slowing things down to the point where you lose momentum, and slowing things down so that you can center and strengthen before exploding into the shot.”

“This is what I do and this is the intention of the swing, so again it proves to me that accuracy – or preparing for accuracy – is more important than translating everything into fast power.’

RSNG Do you pay particular attention to the landing spot on the green? HM “Yes because the landing spot is 50% of what you aim at. I am not aiming at the hole a lot of the time. If I am hitting flat from a hundred yards back I am looking at a very early landing spot and a run-on. I’m not looking only at the flag.”

“I will always try to do something to distract me – if I overthink a situation it is very likely I will make a mistake”

RSNG Do you have any mental tactics to help you focus and stay calm during a match? HM “Be in the moment. On the final day of the Masters I was nervous until I made it to the course, then you let your game head take over.”

“The best way I can hold onto my nerve on a course is to be active – I don’t like to sit around waiting, so for that reason I’m glad I don’t play in the Ryder Cup, haha!”

“I also remind myself that everything I am about to do I have done before a thousand times. There are no new things on a golf course, apart from the experiences. Every shot I have made before, every putt, every green I have read, every club I have selected. I need to tell myself this because it puts me back in the moment.”

RSNG Do you have a favorite course to compete on? HM “Probably Sawgrass, where I hit a course record. Unfortunately the Players Championship was canceled after the first round due to Covid, but I had a really good time. And I will say Augusta as well.”

RSNG It’s been reported that when rain interrupted play in Augusta that you went and played video games in your car – what were you playing and do you think video games in general can help to refine hand to eye coordination? HM “I do not remember, but as I said earlier I will always try to do something to distract me. I know some golfers who will spend all their downtime looking back over the holes they did well in and those they didn’t.”

“They will study each hole that is to follow, but I need to clear my mind and only return to thinking about golf maybe 20-30 minutes before I am to go back on the course.”

“If I overthink a situation it is very likely I will make a mistake.”

WHAT NEXT? Want more pro golf insights? Then read the RSNG interview: Meet PGA Championship Winner Collin Morikawa’.