Hideki Matsuyama comes into the 2018 Waste Management Phoenix Open as the 2016 and 2017 Champion and with humble aspirations to match Arnold Palmer’s three-peat in ’62, ’63 and ’64.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: It’s great to be back in Phoenix, Scottsdale again after a year. I love it here. Being able to win twice the last two years have been really memorable for me and quite an honor. I’m going to do my best this year to three-peat and if I was fortunate enough to do that, I think I would join the King, Arnold Palmer, as the only three-peat winner. That would be something.
Bill Rand: I write about the mental side of the game and I’m curious about how you came to such a pronounced pause at the top of your swing.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: That’s a great question. I wish I knew. I really don’t know how that pause got into my swing. I do know that the pause has gotten a lot shorter than it was during my first Masters when I played in Augusta for the first time. I think I was a little bit longer pause then. But, yeah, I wish I knew.
And here’s an interesting thing. My former partner in the School For Extraordinary Golf, Fred Shoemaker, always said that, “It’s not that people don’t know what to do, it’s that they don’t know what they do.” And as it turns out, believe it or not, neither does Hideki.
Bill Rand: So how do you time it up? By just practice and practice and practice? What’s your first move down from the top?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Again, it’s just, I don’t even know I pause, so it’s hard for me to say, okay, what am I thinking at the top or what’s my first swing thought in the transition. I guess as far as timing is concerned, I try to be as slow as I can at the top.
But as good as he is, he’s still striving to get better.
Q. And has he reached his absolute potential?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: That’s a good question, too. Sometimes our results don’t really signify how well we played. With that in mind all I can — I know there’s going to be misses out there and I’m going to make mistakes, but I think I still have a lot of work to do and there’s still room for me to improve a lot. So as far as your question, have I reached my potential, hopefully not.
Then I wanted to let him know that I wasn’t criticizing his swing – for God’s sake, I didn’t want to be the guy who got Hideki thinking there was something wrong with his swing!
Bill Rand: So many golfers are inspired by the patience in your swing, that pause at the top. But you’ve also said that it’s getting shorter and I’m wondering, have you accepted the fact that that’s your swing or are you still working on your swing?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: I change my swing every year. There’s always something that we make adjustments and so my swing will not stay the same. However, the pause at the top, like you said before, it’s timing and it has to do with timing, the transition, gathering myself, that probably won’t change.
So I mouthed the words “Thank you,” and again as he walked out of the media center by my aisle seat. And he patted me on the back of my shoulder.