AKRON, Ohio – Though he may be relatively unknown to American golf fans, Japanese sensation Hideki Matsuyama will likely garner some additional attention this week at Firestone Country Club when he is paired with world No. 1 Tiger Woods for the first two rounds of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
Matsuyama, 21, has won twice on the Asian Tour since turning pro in April and finished inside the top 10 at both the U.S. Open and British Open this summer. His meteoric rise through the rankings has placed him 33rd in the world after just 11 events as a professional, and he is currently in line to earn a berth on Nick Price’s International Team at the Presidents Cup this fall.
Woods, of course, is no stranger to the fairways of Firestone, having won here seven times with his most recent title coming in 2009. He’ll be making his first start since his tie for sixth at the British Open earlier this month, hoping to add this tournament to the Arnold Palmer Invitational on the list of events he has won a record eight times across his career. Woods and Matsuyama will start at 9:20 a.m. ET Thursday off No. 10, while the duo will begin the second round off the first tee at 1:10 p.m. Friday.
Other notable early-round pairings include the two most recent major champions, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson, who will tee off together at 1:40 p.m. Thursday. Keegan Bradley will begin defense of his Bridgestone title at 2 p.m. Thursday alongside England’s Luke Donald, while the PGA Tour’s most recent winner, Brandt Snedeker, will play the first two rounds alongside world No. 3 Rory McIlroy, starting at 1:30 p.m. Thursday.