Major changes to winners in future?

04 Jun 2014

There have been 428 major titles in golf and thus far the winners have come from just 18 different countries. As the list we’re referring to includes Jersey as a country, which is true for Commonwealth Games but would generally considered to be part of England, we can arguably reduce that to 17. Leading the field by a huge margin is the United States with 259, while Wales, South Korea, France and Canada all weigh in with a single victory on their ledger.

South Korea is the only Asian country on the list and is the most recent addition, with Yang Yong-eun’s (more commonly known as YE Yang) 2009 PGA win getting them onto the honours board. But as the sport’s popularity in Asia increases rapidly it would seem only a matter of time before Asia’s appearances at the top of the leaderboard increase and who would bet against Japan finally making a mark at some point in the not too distant future, especially on the back of Hideki Matsuyama’s win at the Memorial Tournament over the weekend.

It may seem harsh to place that kind of pressure on a set of young shoulders that only turned pro last April, but while the bookies generally have him way down the list of favourites for this year’s three remaining major’s his star is shining brightly enough to suggest that a break through victory is not beyond him.

The Memorial Tournament was his first win on the PGA Tour to go with five on the Japanese Tour, so talk of major victory may seem premature. But he has already shown an aptitude for majors and has been far from overawed in the short time he has been competing. He was the first Japanese amateur to play in the Masters in 2011 and won the Silver Cup as the lowest scoring amateur in the field. He didn’t play in the 2013 event but did make an impression on the other majors, with top ten finishes in both the US Open and Open Championship.

He also showed a great ability to hold his nerve, pulling his game back together after a double bogey – bogey run at 16 and 17 nearly derailed his Memorial Tournament bid. So while he failed to make the cut in this year’s Masters event he has run into form at the right time and will be looking forward to a good run at Pinehurst as he attempts to make golfing history as the first Japanese major winner. Perhaps it is unfair to expect him to beat the likes of Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy; the latter remains the favourite despite some inconsistent recent form.

Matsuyama claimed it was “a dream come true to win at Mr Nicklaus’ golf course” but trying to emulate the four-time US Open champion in a couple of weeks would surely be a bigger dream. It was Nicklaus who put paid to Japan’s best effort at a major when he beat Isao Aoki to second place in his 1980 US Open. Can Matsuyama go one better?

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