There is no doubt that Hideki Matsuyama of Japan is quickly becoming a household name on the PGA Tour and could definitely win a major this season. Last week on Super Bowl Sunday, Matsuyama won his second consecutive Waste Management Open in Phoenix and became only the sixth player ever to win the tournament in back-to-back years. He joined a list of Americans that included Ben Hogan (1946 and 1947), Jimmy DeMaret (1949 and 1950), Lloyd Mangrum (1952 and 1953), Arnold Palmer (1961, 1962, 1963) and Johnny Miller (1974 and 1975).
What the list of the other five American golfers have in common is they are all Major champions. No Japanese golfer has ever won a major on the PGA Tour.
Matsuyama is ready to make that step. He is currently fifth in the World Golf Rankings and is only behind Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson.
Matsuyama has won in a variety of ways. He has been clutch under pressure. In the last two Waste Management Open events, he won in a playoff. Last year he beat Rickie Fowler and this year he beat Webb Simpson. Matsuyama has also won in dominant fashion. That is what happened at the 2016 WGC HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
Now the conversation should be who are the golfers who are in the best position to contend with Matsuyama? Luckily for Matsuyama’s opponents, the Japanese sensation will not be competing this weekend at the famous AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am in northern California. This is when the celebrities come out and golf with the PGA players. There are two separate tournaments that take place. There is a celebrity-PGA team competition in addition to the individual golf tournament for the PGA players.
One team that will be mighty interesting is Dustin Johnson, and his soon-to-be father-in-law Wayne Gretzky, the greatest athlete that has ever lived. Johnson has won the Pebble Beach Pro-Am twice, but not since 2010. Other celebrities who will take part include Aaron Rodgers (with Jerry Kelly), Justin Timberlake (with Justin Rose), Bill Murray, Bill Belichick, Mark Wahlberg, Larry Fitzgerald, Peyton Manning (with Webb Simpson), Ray Romano, Andy Roddick (with Geoff Ogilvy), Bob Stoops, Alex Smith (with Canadian MacKenzie Hughes), Josh Donaldson and Condoleezza Rice.
I like a combination of international golfers this week. My projected top four are Ireland’s Shane Lowry, England’s Justin Rose, American Jordan Spieth and Spain’s Jon Rahm.