PGA Tour

Friends reunited powers Matsuyama at Northern Trust

Hideki Matsuyama (Getty)
Hideki Matsuyama (Getty)

Paramus - Hideki Matsuyama credited a happy reunion with his long-time caddy after making a strong start to the Northern Trust in New Jersey on Thursday. 

The Japanese star finished the day one off the lead after carding a four-under-par 67 on a rain-softened Ridgewood Country Club course. 

Matsuyama, 26, kick-started his round in brilliant fashion with three birdies in succession from his second hole and then moved to four-under with a birdie at his eighth. 

The current world number 20 then moved to five under for his round with a birdie at his 10th before a late bogey left him outside the leading group. 

"I've been working hard on my game and I am seeing some improvements in my game," Matsuyama said. 

"Hopefully, that will carry on through the Play-Offs and I can do a little better." 

Matsuyama's lofty position in the 119-player field comes after he re-hired caddy, Daisuke Shindo. 

Shindo has been by Matsuyama's side since he turned pro in 2013 and has included impressive Major results of T5th in the 2015 Masters, T2nd at the 2017 US Open, T6th in the 2013 Open Championship and a share of fourth place in the 2016 PGA Championship. 

The duo parted following Matsuyama's 11th place result in this year's US Open, and this despite a closing round 66 at Shinnecock Hills. 

Matsuyama arranged for a friend, a member of the travelling Japanese golf media, to fill the vacant role. 

However, Matsuyama then missed the cut in The Open at Carnoustie and headed to Ohio, as defending WGC - Bridgestone Invitational champion to end in a share of 37th. 

Matsuyama finished two places higher a week later in the PGA Championship while last week he shot weekend rounds of 64 and 65 for a share of 11th in the Wyndham Championship in North Carolina. 

Matsuyama and fellow countryman, Shindo agreed to get back together this week. 

"It is just like old times and like nothing has changed," said Matsuyama. 

Matsuyama's dip in form also coincided with his becoming a father for the first time. His ranking has slipped to 20th this season. 

"It is a coincidence that my ranking has slipped since we had the baby and I haven't played well in being a new father," he said. 

In recent weeks Matsuyama has started a strict diet which has seen the five-time PGA Tour winner shed close to seven kilos. 

"It is probably the best diet I have been on, as it's been a stressful year," he said. 

"I was just planning to lose three but it ended-up like six or seven, so I am now trying to get a bit back."

Leading scores after first round of the USPGA Northern Trust Open at Ridgewood Country Club here Thursday (USA unless stated, par-71):

66 - Kevin Tway, Jamie Lovemark, Vaughn Taylor, Sean O'Hair

67 - Hideki Matsuyama (JPN), Scott Piercy, Tommy Fleetwood (ENG), Andrew Putnam, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Paul Casey (ENG), Kevin Na, Alex Cejka (GER), Danny Lee (NZL), Jhonattan Vegas (VEN), Rafa Cabrera-Bello (ESP), Beau Hossler.

68 - Bryson DeChambeau, Ryan Palmer, Bronson Burgoon, Peter Uihlein, Phil Mickelson, Austin Cook, Trey Mullinax, Brian Stuard, Sam Saunders.

Selected:

69 - Adam Scott (AUS), Ian Poulter (ENG), Patrick Reed

70 - Jordan Spieth

71 - Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, Jason Day (AUS)

72 - Francesco Molinari (ITA)

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What is your favourite sport to watch on TV?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Rugby
42% - 8955 votes
Cricket
11% - 2315 votes
Football
19% - 4090 votes
Athletics
2% - 528 votes
Boxing
1% - 191 votes
Cycling
2% - 496 votes
Golf
5% - 1044 votes
Motorsport
9% - 1816 votes
Tennis
3% - 727 votes
Water sports
1% - 198 votes
American sports
1% - 266 votes
MMA / WWE / UFC
3% - 673 votes
Vote