Japan native and 2021 Zozo Championship winner Hideki Matsuyama has committed to defend his title at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in Chiba this October 13-16. Joining Matsuyama are Presidents Cup U.S. Team star Cameron Young, Norway’s Viktor Hovland and compatriot Satoshi Kodaira.
Matsuyama will also contend against nine of his Presidents Cup International teammates, including South Korea’s Sungjae Im and rising star Tom Kim, as he looks to become the first player to successfully defend his title at Japan’s lone PGA Tour event.
This latest wave of big names to sign up for the USD11 million showpiece includes the full list of top 60 automatic PGA Tour qualifiers and ensures another week of world-class golf as Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 gold medallist Xander Schauffele, two-time major winner Collin Morikawa, five-time tour winner Rickie Fowler, three-time tour winner Cameron Champ and European Ryder Cup star Tommy Fleetwood were previously announced. Schauffele and Morikawa also featured in the recent Presidents Cup alongside Young for the victorious U.S. Team which defeated the International Team 17.5 – 12.5 at Quail Hollow Club.
Matsuyama, 30, captured his seventh career PGA Tour title by five strokes at the 2021 Zozo Championship at Narashino when the event triumphantly returned to its intended host country of Japan after being played in the U.S. in 2020 due to COVID-19. Just three months later, Matsuyama carried the momentum into his second win of the season, and eighth career PGA Tour title, at the Sony Open in Hawaii, equalling the record for most wins by an Asian golfer. The batch of victories came on the heels of his historic 2021 Masters title where he became the first Japanese golfer to win at Augusta National.
Making his debut in the Zozo Championship is Young, who has emerged as one of the most exciting young talents on the PGA Tour following five runner-up finishes in the 2021-22 season, including at the Open Championship at St. Andrews. The 25-year-old also finished third at the PGA Championship at Southern Hills and 19th at the Tour Championship.
Hovland, the World No. 11, finished 15th in the 2021-22 FedExCup final standings after securing a career third PGA Tour victory at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba and four other top-10s, including a T4 at the Open Championship for his career first top-10 in a major. The 25-year-old was also victorious in the Dubai Desert Classic on the DP World Tour earlier in the year and was a member of the European Ryder Cup team in 2021. This will be his third appearance in the Zozo Championship.
Other International Team Presidents Cup members who will head to Japan include Si Woo Kim (South Korea), K.H. Lee (South Korea), Mito Pereira (Chile), Sebastián Muñoz (Colombia), Christiaan Bezuidenhout (South Africa), Corey Conners (Canada) and Cam Davis (Australia). Tom Kim emerged as one of the stars for the Internationals after delivering two points in his debut while Si Woo Kim was the top points earner with three points, including a singles victory over Justin Thomas.
The 78-player field will include the leading players from the 2021-2022 FedExCup Playoffs Points List, players designated by the Japan Golf Tour Organization, the winner of the 2022 BMW Japan Golf Tour Championship Mori Building Cup on the Japan Golf Tour and sponsor exemptions.
Malaysian golf legend Lim Siew Ai believes that the future is bright for the nation’s next generation of lady golfers.
“It’s exciting to see this new wave of talent in Malaysia. For a while it was just me, then for a long time it was just Kelly (Tan) … now you’ve got Natasha (Oon) coming on the scene, you have Mirabel (Ting) who’s in the wings, Ashley (Lau) will be heading down the professional route, and many more,” said Lim.
Having played on the LPGA Tour from 1999 to 2008 and now firmly established as one of the region's most sought-after elite coaches, Lim certainly knows what she’s talking about.
“I love the fact that they’re taking a risk and going out and trying their hand at professional golf, and see if it’s something that they want to do long-term. It’s certainly an experience and an opportunity that I would encourage, especially after getting your college degree,” noted Lim, who is the founder and Director of Instruction of the Masters Golf Performance Centre at Glenmarie Golf & Country Club.
Prior to turning professional in 1996, Lim played on the U.S. college golf circuit for the University of South Carolina where she earned All-America honours in her senior year. Her long list of achievements as a member of the national team include two Malaysian Ladies Amateur Open titles and winning the country's only Southeast Asian (SEA) Games ladies team gold medal in 1993.
Lim noted that it was good to see the current crop of Malaysian lady professionals supporting each other. “If you look at the current group of players, Kelly Tan, Michelle Koh, Michelle Low, Ainil, Genevieve, Dianne Luke, Aretha – they’re all very tight, and they kind of serve as a support system for each other,” she observed.
“And I also see them very involved with the next generation, so they’re trying to help perpetuate the positives that have already been established, and that’s a really good thing."
There are more playing options now for lady professionals, Lim added, compared to her competitive days. “There are definitely much more playing opportunities now compared to when I was playing! Thailand has a good ladies circuit, I think they’re starting the Ladies Asian Tour, and lots of stuff happening in Korea and Japan."
At the elite amateur level, Lim stressed that she would like to see more Malaysian girls heading out of the country to compete.
“Organisations like MGA and MALGA have done well to send some of these kids to see what the rest of the world is doing. I think that’s been good and I would love to see more such opportunities arise. I know, unfortunately, funding is always an issue so they can only send so many,” said Lim, whose best result on the LPGA Tour was a T2 finish in the 2004 Kellogg Keebler Classic.
While the number of lady golfers is growing, Lim noted that there are still barriers that need to be broken.
“Part of it is dress code. If you look at young people today, they don’t dress as traditional golfers dress,” she pointed out.
“For example, some of my younger students don’t want to wear shorts that are down here, just above the knee. They like the trendy shorts that are mid-thigh or slightly higher. Is that acceptable on LPGA, of course it is today. Is it acceptable at a lot of clubs … no!
“I’m not saying go ridiculous with tank tops and all that, but I think golf can be fashionable and a bit more up to date. That would make it easier for the younger generations to embrace the sport.”
Lim stressed that accessibility, or rather the lack of it, is still the biggest barrier. “We need more public courses to make the game more accessible. One of the issues that juniors have is that they don’t have access to golf courses, so they can’t get on the golf course like the kids in the US or overseas. If they can, it’s super limited, and when they do, other people are not free to play.
“Look at the First Tee program in the US … golf clubs would give priority to juniors, for example on Sunday afternoons. If you’re not playing with a junior, you can’t play. At a private club in the US, even non-member juniors could pay USD10 and play … that’s their CSR. If private clubs could do that here, maybe nine holes twice a week on a weekday, it would be amazing!”
Getting new golfers out on the course, Lim added, is the best way to get them hooked on the game. “We can get people to pick up the game, but we’ll lose them if we can’t get them on the golf course within two to three years.
“You can only do so much on the driving range to keep them interested. Unless they actually play the game, they won’t feel the thrill of seeing that putt go in … so that’s what’s more important, to get these people on the golf course so they really know what golf is.”
Lim shared how the students in her Wednesday ladies clinic morphed into a golfing group. “I started with two ladies that I was already working with and others joined along the way.
“As they got to know each other, eventually it morphed into an opportunity for them to go and play golf with each other. I think that’s important in terms of helping ladies get into the game, because their biggest problem is who to play with.
“Now that they have friends to play with, they will stay in the game!”
LPGA rookie Atthaya Thitikul paid tribute to her fellow Thai players following her second tour victory at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship presented by P&G.
"I think it's pretty good that we have like a lot of Thai players out here on the LPGA Tour. Seem like we have friends to hang out with and then like talk Thai with. It means a lot to me to have them like behind my back. Like, I mean, if they have some good day or bad day I am behind their back as well," said the 19-year-old phenom.
After defeating Danielle Kang on the second playoff hole.Thitikul was mobbed by compatriots Pajaree Anannarukarn and Pornanong Phatlum who finished fourth.
"We kind of like support each other, and then I think it's pretty special that today we got Pajaree here. I thought she left already. I just saw her face and I was like, oh, are you here?
"And Pornanong, I have been looking to her as a role model when I was young as well. She is super like good and then super sweet, kind of like a big sister that is nice to and kind to all the Thai players. Yeah, so glad that we have them," noted Thitikul.
Thitikul had taken the lead at Pinnacle Country Club with a stunning third round 61, but was caught by Kang after 72 holes on 17-under-par when the American pitched in for eagle at the par-five 18th.
In the playoff, the pair matched pars on the par-three 15th. Both had looks for birdie at the par-four 16 – Kang from the back fringe and Thitikul from around 15 feet. Kang’s putt raced by and Thiitikul nailed hers to cap off a stellar week of golf.
Thitikul became a Rolex First-Time Winner earlier this season at the JTBC Classic presented by Barbasol, also in a playoff. She is now the fourth Thai player with multiple wins on the LPGA Tour, joining Ariya Jutanugarn (12), Jasmine Suwannapura (2) and Moriya Jutanugarn (2). Thitikul is also the fourth player with multiple wins this season, alongside Jennifer Kupcho (3), Minjee Lee (2) and Brooke Henderson (2).
“I have to say that I really want to win. When I go out and play every event, I think every player wants to win tournaments,” said Thitikul, who moved up to fourth in the season-long Race To CME Globe standings.
"It means a lot to me as well to get my second win, because it seems like you prove that you can do it, even you're not like three or four groups before the final group. But I'm in the final group, and then just prove myself that, yeah, you can do it. It's really special for me.”
For Kang, the solo second was her best result since the Gainbridge LPGA at BocaRio as well as her best finish since her return to competitive golf in August after undergoing treatment for a tumor on her spine.
"There is a lot riding on this event, but with that going on, the way my team had built me into coming here is where I get emotional and so thankful,” said the 29-year-old, who has six LPGA wins to her name including a Major at the 2017 Women's PGA Championship.
Teenage amateur Hsieh Cheng-wei may have finished at the wrong end of the post-cut leaderboard in last week's Yeangder TPC, but he will still go into golf's history books as the youngest male player to make the cut on one of the game’s main tours.
Hsieh added a second round 74 to his opening 69 on Friday to reach one-under-par after 36 holes at Linkou International Golf & Country Club in Taipei, making it to the weekend by two shots. At age 14 years and 33 days, the golf phenom from Taipei beat the previous record set by China’s Guan Tian-lang at the 2013 Masters (14 years and 169 days).
Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond had held the Asian Tour record having made it through to the weekend at the Asian Tour International in 2010 when he was 14 years and 71 days.
Having played in the morning session on Friday, Hsieh had a long wait to see if one-under would be good enough - which, to the delight of everyone, was the case as the cut came at even-par.
I got nervous towards the end because I wasn’t playing well. I didn’t have much expectation though. I just try to play my best, siad Hiseh, who started playign golf at age four at the Linkou course.
“I started preparing for this tournament after I found out I could play when I won the Yeangder amateur event in June. I have been practising here a lot,” added the youngter, who finished the tournament on seven-over-par 295 (69-74-78-74).
The youngest golfer or either gender to make the cut on one of the main tours is the now-retired Michelle Wie, who was 13 years, 5 months and 17 days when she progressed to the weekend at the 2003 Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Presidents Cup International Team captain Trevor Immelman paid tribute to his players for fighting to the end in their 17½-12½ defeat to the United States at Quail Hollow.
"We've had an amazing week in Charlotte. It's been a pretty incredible couple years, when you consider when I was made captain, there was no such thing as a pandemic, there were a few other things that weren't around as well. And so, you know, we've had a lot of hurdles to get to this point," said Immelman, describiing his team as 'warriors' during the post-event press conference.
"But the gentlemen you see on this table right here, always been committed to playing for the shield and being here in Charlotte, and they played some incredible golf, some inspired golf, and they kept fighting all the way down to the end. Even when the result was known, they kept fighting.So I'm extremely humbled and proud to be sitting up here with them, and I thank them for everything they've done for our team," he added.
Si Woo Kim, a three-time PGA Tour winner, emerged as the highest points earner for the International Team with three points in what was his second Presidents Cup appearance. In his singles match against Justin Thomas, Kim trailed 2-down at the turn but made four brilliant birdies coming home to win 1-up.
It was a memorable week which delivered many highlights from the Internationals, mainly from Tom Kim’s youthful exuberance and high-octane celebration which lifted the Internationals on day three.
While he is unsure if he would still be involved in the 15th edtion at Royal Montreal Golf Club in 2024, Immelman noted that plans are already in place to build an International Team capable of winning the Cup for only the second time since the matches started in 1994.
"We have a system that we like and a plan and a strategy, and it feels like to me, you know, this was an important week for us just to just lay a couple more bricks in this house that we're trying to build.
"We're here for the long run in this event. We're going to win this event. So we'll keep building. We'll keep fighting," said the South African.
"At some point, we're going to win."
Match 19: Si Woo Kim (INT) def. Justin Thomas (U.S.), 1-up
Match 20: Jordan Spieth (U.S.) def. Cam Davis (INT), 4 and 3
Match 21: Sam Burns (U.S.) and Hideki Matsuyama (INT) tied
Match 22: Patrick Cantlay (U.S.) def. Adam Scott (INT), 3 and 2
Match 23: Sebastian Munoz (INT) def. Scottie Scheffler (U.S.), 2 and 1
Match 24: Tony Finau (U.S.) def. Taylor Pendrith (INT), 3 and 1
Match 25: Xander Schauffele (U.S.) def. Corey Conners (INT), 1-up
Match 26: Sungjae Im (INT) def. Cameron Young (U.S.), 1-up
Match 27: K.H. Lee (INT) def. Billy Horschel (U.S.), 3 and 1
Match 28: Max Homa (U.S.) def. Tom Kim (INT), 1-up
Match 29: Collin Morikawa (U.S.) def. Mito Pereira (INT), 3 and 2
Match 30: Christiaan Bezuidenhout (INT) def. Kevin Kisner (U.S.), 2 and 1
THINGS TO KNOW
• United States wins the Presidents Cup, 17½ - 12½, with Xander Schauffele earning the clinching point
• Jordan Spieth becomes the sixth player in Presidents Cup history with a 5-0-0 record in a single year
• Si Woo Kim defeats Justin Thomas, 1-up, and is the leading points earner for the International Team (3 points)
• Three players in addition to Spieth had undefeated records: Max Homa, U.S. (4-0-0); Sebastian Munoz, INT (2-0-1); Christiaan Bezuidenhout, INT (1-0-1)