2021 Zozo Championship leaderboard: Hideki Matsuyama near top after Round 1 in bid for home country win

Earlier than the 2021 Zozo Championship began, Hideki Matsuyama warned followers that he didn’t have his greatest stuff and “shall be struggling this week.” He mentioned, if his recreation on the Masters was a ten (he gained that, by the way in which), it was presently lower than a one. So, after all, Matsuyama went out and shot a 64 in Spherical 1, sitting one again of the chief at this occasion in his dwelling nation of Japan.

Matsuyama got here in as one of many favorites, and similar to a post-shot routine by which you assume he is hit a ball out of bounds nevertheless it truly rolls to 11 ft, he seemingly set all people up. He might not have been flawless by his personal preposterous requirements, however he is now in place to bookend what has been a little bit of a dream 12 months — after profitable the Masters in April, he contended on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in August — with a victory on dwelling soil.

It could be the seventh of his terrific PGA Tour profession and the thirteenth total by any individual from the nation of Japan.

“We play in entrance of plenty of followers on the PGA Tour [in the United States], however to have the ability to play in my dwelling nation in entrance of so many Japanese followers, it was a thrill,” mentioned Matsuyama. “I am glad I performed nicely at this time.”

There’s nonetheless an extended strategy to go, however Matsuyama is now the +250 favourite to win, in line with Caesars Sportsbook, simply forward of Joaquin Niemann (+450). Each of them are chasing an unlikely Spherical 1 chief in Hiroshi Iwata, who shot 7-under 63 over the primary 18 holes and went birdie-birdie-eagle to shut out his first 9 holes earlier than taking a one-stroke lead together with his efficiency on the again 9.

Let’s dive just a little deeper into his spherical and check out what’s a reasonably candy leaderboard at Accordia Golf Narashino Nation Membership.

1. Hiroshi Iwata (-7): Iwata is a fixture on the Japan Golf Tour the place he ranks No. 13 on the cash record and has completed within the prime 15 in every of his final three begins. He is ranked No. 161 on the earth so it isn’t like he is an obscurity. He is completed within the prime 10 at some good occasions earlier than (WGC-HSBC Champions and the Pebble Seaside Professional-Am). Nonetheless, a 40-year-old Iwata downing Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa and Matsuyama all within the coronary heart of their careers could be a stunner, albeit a enjoyable one for Iwata to develop into simply the sixth Japanese golfer ever to win a PGA Tour occasion in his dwelling nation.

T2. Joaquin Niemann, Hideki Matsuyama (-6): These two mixed for 12 birdies and no bogeys on Thursday, which is wonderful contemplating there have been solely 28 gamers who broke par. Niemann identified the course problem after his spherical, which is significant because it pertains to each of those gamers as a result of they will each thrive on powerful, ball-striker’s programs.

“Yeah, it is a actually onerous course,” mentioned Niemann. “I like it as a result of it is enjoyable. You have to hit it each methods: You have to hit draw, you have to hit fade, you have to put the ball within the fairway. There’s some holes that … it is actually vital to be in an excellent place. Typically, the tough could be actually difficult, and it is onerous to manage the gap from the tough. Yeah, it is a enjoyable course.”

Niemann has been hitting the ball fairly nicely of late, however final week he made nothing. That modified on Thursday, which is a part of the rationale you see him contending for this occasion with solely Matsuyama holding shorter odds.

4. Matt Wallace (-5): Wallace led the sector in birdies on Thursday with seven. His final prime 10 at a PGA Tour occasion got here in Could on the Wells Fargo Championship. He completed T6 there when Rory McIlroy went on to win. Wallace is all the time a enjoyable watch when he is within the combine, and seeing him tackle Matsuyama, Niemann and possibly Tommy Fleetwood or Xander Schauffele could be extraordinarily compelling.

5. Brendan Steele (-4): It is uncommon to get this a lot separation within the prime 5 the place solely two golfers are tied, nevertheless it speaks to the issue of the course as Niemann alluded to. Steele made 5 birdies and an eagle on Thursday and holed out on No. 10 (his first gap of the day). Being 2 beneath via one gap is all the time good. He has struggled of late (5 missed cuts and only one top-40 in his final 12 occasions), however his recreation appears to be coming round and he has some endurance right here heading to Spherical 2.

T6. Tommy Fleetwood (-3): Here is an attention-grabbing stat from my buddy and colleague, Rick Gehman: Fleetwood’s final prime 5 in a stroke play occasion on Tour was the Honda Basic … in 2020. That was 19 months in the past. He has not been superb since then, however he was stable on Thursday with two eagles to offset three bogeys and slid into that prime six because of this.

T29. Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele (E): Schauffele had it going early on, however 4 bogeys in his final 10 holes undid the early work. Fowler made a triple and someway nonetheless shot even par. That is emblematic of Fowler’s points during the last 12 months or so. He was one hundred and thirty fifth on the PGA Tour in bogey avoidance final season, which suggests he would possibly nonetheless be scoring however all of it’s coming aside as a result of he is placing too many huge numbers on the cardboard. Each guys are definitely nonetheless in it, and Schauffele is the fifth-shortest favourite, in line with Caesars Sportsbook.

T42. Collin Morikawa (+1): Morikawa was not horrible on Thursday, however 4 bogeys on the second 9 of the course leaves him eight again. He performed final weekend in 17 beneath to almost steal the CJ Cup at Summit so I haven’t got plenty of concern over a middling begin in Japan. He ought to stand up the board over the following three days. | 2021 Zozo Championship leaderboard: Hideki Matsuyama close to prime after Spherical 1 in bid for dwelling nation win


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