ERIN, Wis. – Hideki Matsuyama appeared in danger of missing the cut after an opening-round 74 at the U.S. Open. But after turning things around in a big way, the Japanese phenom is now in contention to win his first major.
Matsuyama came out firing Friday at Erin Hills, with birdies on six of his first eight holes to challenge the tournament’s nine-hole scoring record. He ultimately shot a bogey-free 65, one that vaulted him to 5 under and within two shots of four co-leaders.
“I’m very excited and very happy with the score,” Matsuyama said. “There were a couple of loose swings out there, but when you shoot 65, you can take those.”
Matsuyama’s score equaled Chez Reavie for the day’s low round and tied the total Rickie Fowler posted to take the opening-round lead.
After hitting only 9/14 fairways and 9/18 greens in regulation during the first round, Matsuyama missed only one fairway and had birdie chances on 14 of the 18 greens. While the ball-striking numbers were up, the world No. 4 attributed his turnaround on the scorecard to his ability to hole putts by the handful.
“Shooting a good score today gave me a lot of confidence,” he said. “I really haven’t been hitting the ball well as of late. To shoot a good round like today, I’m certainly looking forward to the weekend.”
Matsuyama was the hottest player in the world to close last year, but he has largely cooled since a playoff victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February that remains his last top-10 finish. But he now has a chance to break out of that mini-slump, and in the process has an eye on becoming the first Japanese man to win a major championship.
“I really can’t think about it until maybe after I win,” he said. “But anytime a Japanese can win a major, it would be great for the golf world of Japan.”