US Open foes watch Matsuyama after Memorial win

Last Updated: Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 09:47

Japan`s Hideki Matsuyama, coming off a victory two weeks ago at the Memorial, has the attention and respect of his rivals this week at Pinehurst in the 114th US Open.

Matsuyama birdied the final hole for the fourth day in a row to force a playoff, then parred the first extra hole to defeat American Kevin Na and claim his first US PGA title.

"My next goal now would be to win one of the four majors," Matsuyama said. "I hope the momentum will carry over."

The 22-year-old from Sendai will find out Thursday in a morning start off the 10th tee alongside a pair of young US stars, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

"He has an incredible game. Everyone saw it a couple of weeks ago," Spieth said. "He has got it all. I`m looking forward to playing with him."

Matsuyama, who has jumped to 13th in the world rankings, hopes to follow in the footsteps of defending champion Justin Rose, who took his first US victory at the Memorial in 2010 and collected his first major title in last year`s US Open at Merion.

"He has got a great opportunity to do wonderful things in the game," Rose said.

"He has all the attributes to win major championships. He hits the ball far, high, he seems to putt well, he seems to have a great temperament.

"To birdie the 18th hole last week to force a playoff showed a lot of character. He has every opportunity to go on and achieve great things and win majors."

Matsuyama has handled major pressure well, sharing sixth at last year`s British Open in similar conditions to what he will face this week at Pinehurst.

"This is going to be a very similar test to Muirfield if it stays dry, so he has every opportunity," Rose said.

World number one Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion from Australia who won last month at Colonial where Matsuyama also contended, played the last round alongside the Japanese prodigy at Memorial and four Presidents Cup matches alongside him last October on the same layout.

"He`s an impressive young player, very strong and a great ball-striker," Scott said. "It`s hard to say anything is a weakness. There are lots of areas he`s going to get better as he plays more and gets older.

"But, to me, the strength that stands out is his mental strength. Everyone struggled coming in and somehow he handled it best.

"For a young kid, I think his mental strength is his biggest asset at the moment."

Reigning Masters champion Bubba Watson sees Matsuyama as a threat for years to come.

"A guy that young, with that much talent, he`s going to be here for many years and going to compete at a high level," Watson said.

"He can compete at any championship we play. He has a chance to win. He has shown that."

AFP

First Published: Thursday, June 12, 2014 - 09:54

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