2021 Zozo Championship scores. grades: Hideki Matsuyama caps incredible year with win in home country


Hideki Matsuyama bookended a dream year with a win at the Zozo Championship on Sunday in his home country of Japan. Though the two victories technically came in different PGA Tour seasons, what began in April with a green jacket at the 2021 Masters ended on Sunday at the Zozo as Matsuyama grabbed one of the most meaningful non-majors anyone has won in a long time.

Matsuyama shot 65 on Sunday to win by five over Cameron Tringale and Brendan Steele, and he dominated the day and week. After taking it deep on Thursday in Round 1 with a 64, he built on his position with two 68s over the next two days. An early eagle on his front nine on Sunday pushed him out in front. Then, as his competition faded, he closed with three birdies and a fairytale eagle at the last.

“It was one of my biggest goals to win in front of the Japanese fans here in this country as well,” said Matsuyama. “So happy that I’ll be able to accomplish that. Also, in 2019, Tiger won the Masters and went on to win the Zozo Championship, so I’m glad that I would be able to emulate that as well.”

In the middle of it all, Matsuyama was unable to medal at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo (he lost in a playoff for a bronze), which is something he certainly longed for, but the Zozo Championship win this week was more than a consolation prize. It seems that Matsuyama’s primary goal was not to win a specific event, but rather to win in Japan at all. After a Masters victory resonated so globally, he wanted to bring that experience to his home country, no matter how it happened.

In very Hideki fashion, he dialed down how well he actually played this week. For somebody known for one-handed finishes with irons that end up within 10 feet of the cup, this is no surprise.

“I would rate my performance as 2 or 3,” he said, just days after saying that he had less than his “1” game in the tank for this tournament. “From the results perspective, it went about to 8, but I think it’s because all the energy that I was getting from the fans and I was very surprised how much energy I was feeding off of them.”

“That’s how I honestly felt,” he added. “My confidence was around 1 or 2, but thanks to all the Japanese crowd out there, I was able to feed off of their energy and play well.”

Matsuyama has now won seven times in his PGA Tour career (and has seven of the 13 PGA Tour wins by Japanese-born players), but none more important than the two he took in 2021. The bigger picture here is that his winning percentage is strong, and he’s still extremely young (29). Matsuyama spoke openly after he won at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on Sunday about what the future holds.

“The most PGA Tour wins by the Asian players is K.J. Choi’s eight wins, and Shigeki Maruyama told me to go on and beat that record, so I’m glad I’m getting close to that particular record,” he said.

Whether Matsuyama becomes the most-accomplished Asian player ever or maybe he is already the best Asian player, both seem like questions to be answered next year or beyond. What we know right now, after Matsuyama’s blowout victory in Japan on Sunday, is that he just capped the greatest year of his life and one of the most meaningful years by any player from any country in the modern era. Grade: A+

Here are the rest of our grades for the 2021 Zozo Championship.

Collin Morikawa (T7): Morikawa had one poor round on Thursday, an early 71 when a lot of golfers were taking it under par that kept him from getting into the mix this weekend. I’m not sure anyone was going to catch Matsuyama, so it’s probably irrelevant, but it’s certainly nice to see Morikawa start his fall slate with a pair of top-10 finishes, especially after how he ended last season. Expectations for him going into 2022 were already going to be outrageous, and this will provide some good cover for folks who are optimistic about what he’s going to do (which is almost all folks). Grade: A-

Xander Schauffele (T28): Schauffele was solid on the weekend, but he dug himself too big of a hole on Thursday and Friday. He was paired with Matsuyama over the first 36 and found himself trailing by 12 going to Round 3. That’s a lot to make up, even for somebody as good as Schauffele, and he barely made a dent in it. Still, he once again praised his time in Japan after winning the gold medal in August and returning as not only more of a celebrity but also more in demand with the family he has there. Grade: B-

“It wasn’t quite the same experience, didn’t play as well, but I enjoyed being here despite the lockdown and COVID rules,” said Schauffele. “Saw some of my family here, which was really cool. I don’t get a big opportunity to see them since they don’t travel to the U.S. very much, so that was kind of the shining moment for me.”

Rickie Fowler (T44): Fowler nearly pulled off the ultra-rare feat of shooting the same score in every round. After dropping a 70 in Round 1, he went 71-71-71 to close out his week. I’m undeterred by his low finish in light of how he played at the CJ Cup at Summit last week. There’s a lot to take toward 2022, and the one point of focus in terms of scoring remains the same for him: cleaning up big numbers. He made two doubles and a triple this week at the Zozo Championship, and though he’s making enough birdies to roll at the top of the board, too many of his mistakes turn into big numbers and make it difficult for him to contend. Grade: B-





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