The PGA Tour is in Hideki Matsuyama’s territory this week as the Zozo Championship – which was played at Sherwood Country Club in Lake Sherwood, California, in 2020 for one year only as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – returned to Japan. It only seems right that after two rounds, Matsuyama, the reigning Masters champ, has a one-shot lead
Just like last week, there’s no cut in the Zozo Championship. Players are guaranteed four rounds at Accordia Golf Narashino, located just east of Tokyo.
For those who didn’t catch the overnight action, we’re here to catch you up on where things stand entering the weekend.
1. Matsuyama rises to the top
After an opening 64 at Accordia, local favorite Hideki Matsuyama declared his game to be a 1 out of 10. The 29-year-old is sure doing an admirable job of managing what he feels is less than his best, and after a steady round of 2-under 68 on Friday, he took the solo lead at 8 under. He had started the day trailing fellow Japanese player Hiroshi Iwata by one.
Iwata, however, followed a 63 with a 73 on Friday and dropped to a tie for seventh.
It was a relatively boring day for Matsuyama, who birdied Nos. 3, 13 and 18 and made his only bogey at No. 17.
“I’m in a good position,” Matsuyama said. “Looking forward to the weekend and do my best.”
Opponents certainly don’t consider Matsuyama as being a 1 out of 10 this week. Former Presidents Cup teammate Joaquin Niemann, who was tied for second with Matsuyama after the first round but dropped to T5 on Friday with a 71, is just trying to keep pace with him.
“He say he’s not playing his best golf; I think he’s playing pretty good,” he said. “It’s going to be fun. Hopefully we can play together. We played together at the Presidents Cup on the same team and it would be nice to get to know him better and play together. Also, it’s going to be fun to have him here in Japan with the crowds, so yeah, looking forward.”
2. A thoroughly miserable day
Naoyuki Kataoka of Japan tees off on the 18th hole during the second round of the PGA ZOZO Championship golf tournament at the Narashino Country Club in Inzai, Chiba prefecture on October 22, 2021. (Photo by TAKASHI AOYAMA/AFP via Getty Images)
When the Olympic Games were played in Japan in July, an oppressive heat hung over the golf competition. The weather has swung the other way now that Tour players are back in Japan this week for the Zozo.
“It’s not often that we play in rain and cold at the same time,” said Matsuyama.
A steady rain plagued the round and umbrellas popped up around galleries. Most players were outfitted in stocking caps. Niemann described the day as so cold he couldn’t feel his hands.
Matt Wallace, in a tie for third with Brendan Steele, is the highest Englishman on the board and took a bit of a different stance toward the weather.
“Well, I like it.”
3. Tough as Steele
Brendan Steele of the US lines up a putt on the 11th hole during the second round of the PGA ZOZO Championship golf tournament at the Narashino Country Club in Inzai, Chiba prefecture on October 22, 2021. (Photo by TAKASHI AOYAMA/AFP via Getty Images)
Brendan Steele had been dreading these conditions.
“I’m from California, I do not play in the rain,” he said. “When it rains, I stay inside. My game doesn’t usually translate that well to the weather, but I was feeling good about my game yesterday and I was just happy to hold it together today.”
Steele has been a picture of consistency this week after starting Thursday’s round with a holed-out wedge for eagle on No. 10. On Friday, he was 2 under through the front nine before playing the back nine with two birdies and two bogeys. It was an endurance game.
“There’s so many long shots,” he said. “I know the course isn’t that long on the scorecard, but you’re hitting so many long shots and so many hard shots that it really takes it out of you on a day like today.”
4. Can Tringale finally get his win?
Cameron Tringale of the United States hits her tee shot on the 8th hole during the second round of the ZOZO Championship at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on October 22, 2021 in Inzai, Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
Cameron Tringale maintains a dubious honor on the PGA Tour as the player with the most earnings but no actual Tour win. He’s in position to take care of that this week at the Zozo.
Tringale’s second-round 66 tied for best round of the day with Sebastian Munoz, Branden Grace and Chan Kim but it moved him to solo second at 7 under, right behind Matsuyama.
In his career, Tringale has banked $14,502,401, finished runner-up three times and has 26 top-10 finishes – but never a win.
“I kept it in front of me, I hit a lot of good iron shots,” Tringale said of the second round at Zozo. “The course played really long in this cold weather and being so wet. Just made some nice swings with my irons and kind of left myself in the right positions on these greens and was able to make a few putts. That was the day.”
5. Big names struggling
Rickie Fowler of the United States chips onto the 18th green during the second round of the ZOZO Championship at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club on October 22, 2021 in Inzai, Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
While Matsuyama’s rise to the top made the home crowds happy, Friday was not a particularly successful day for other big names in the field.
Collin Morikawa’s second-round 68 left him in a tie for 20th at 1 under. Rickie Fowler slid down the leaderboard a few spots with a 1-over 71, which came on the heels of an opening 70.
Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele is now T58 after rounds of 70-74.