Oct. 19, 2023
Hideki Matsuyama's preparation for victory in the tournament
It’s about an hour and a half before the fervent tee-off time. A car pulls in through the venue gate from the backyard.
After suiting up in the clubhouse, the first place Matsuyama enters is the practice green for putting. There, he putts balls for roughly fifteen minutes, after which he leisurely makes his way to the driving range.
Pure-white balls soundly struck by the Wedge gripped by Matsuyama in one hand are strewn on the ground. The clubs on his hand change from an iron to a fairway wood, then to a driver, going from shortest to longest.
As Matsuyama meticulously continues these basic actions, he evokes a sense of creating a game. Once he finally leaves the practice range, he checks his chip and bunker shots while making his body increasingly tense moment by moment. He finishes by accustoming his body one more time to his trusty putter, then heads to teeing area after giving the team staff members a fist bump.
This routine leading up to the start of a round of golf hasn’t changed for Matsuyama for years.
It doesn’t matter if it’s sunny or rainy outside, of if he’s waiting to play on a chilly early morning or a scorching early afternoon. What seems like an extended ritual is in fact just a small part of his day-to-day preparation.
Before showing up on the golf course, Matsuyama wakes up about three and a half hours before tee-off and does warmup exercises wherever he is staying that week. Through raising his body with careful stretches in his room or a gym followed by rigorous running and training, he works up a sweat. Matsuyama carries out his workout program while making minor changes based on his varying condition and golf performance. In the last 10 years, he had swept through the forefront of the PGA Tour, the pinnacle of the professional golf world.
However, what you see him doing before a round of golf is not necessarily everything in terms of how he prepares. The driving practice he does after wrapping up eighteen holes of golf on each day could be called training not just for the day to come, but for the future beyond that. How did his body and mind react in that situation today? Matsuyama constantly endeavors to form a grasp and understanding of his current situation in detail and close the distance between what he is and what he should strive to be.
Since coming to the US in his early twenties, Matsuyama has been impressed by non-Japanese players and analysts alike for the sheer amount that he practices day after day.
It didn’t take long for many to realize that Japan’s top professional golfer didn’t just have a natural gift for the game.
Ask Matsuyama himself and he would deny that his behind-the-scenes preparation is not something to deliberately boast to others.He believes that professional athletes should captivate the audience with their performance and results during the games.
To be sure, since the time Matsuyama approached his thirties, physical changes started to deeply affect his golf results as well. He acknowledges that he experiences pain in his neck, back and hips, and that can’t handle the same amount of practice and training that he used to.
Even so, that doesn’t mean that how he essentially plays the game of golf has changed. That is the testimony of someone who has seen Matsuyama right by his side day after day. Shota Hayafuji, who has been serving as Matsuyama’s caddy since 2019, has looked up to Matsuyama as his underclassman all though junior high school, high school, and college. After graduation, he, too, appeared in a tour as a professional. Having seen for himself how trying the global scene can be, Hayafuji has formed a certain opinion.
“Based on what I’ve seen over time, there is no professional golfer who earnestly takes on each individual ball, even during practice, as much as Matsuyama. Even with the act of hitting a ball, there’s randomly hitting 100 balls and there’s hitting just ten balls but in earnest. I think the two are totally different.”
Golf is also a sport in which results are widely swayed by “fate,” cruel as that may be. Rain and wind intensity and outdoor temperatures may differ depending on the time of day when play takes place. The location of where the ball falls can cause elation to instantly transform into disappointment if it is off by just a few centimeters.
Even after experiencing such irrationally more times than they can count, Matsuyama and other golfers like him never stop building upon their daily efforts little by little.
Says Matsuyama: “I think that people who do what it takes to win have fate on their side. As for those who can’t win, their efforts may be heading in a slightly wrong direction. I practice so I can pull fate towards my direction.”
For Matsuyama, autumn in 2023 is a season of starting over. He ended up placing 50th in this year’s PGA Tour annual point race, missing his chance to proceed to the final round of the playoff series featuring 30 elite players, a series he had appeared in since 2014, the year of his full-fledged tour debut For the purpose of that restart, he also plays alongside some of the world’s top players in tournaments held in his home country of Japan, players who normally compete ruthlessly States-side.
He is looking to reclaim the title.Over the time when he had no match appearances, Matsuyama had been quietly preparing for that purpose while intensely examining his current challenges.
Two years ago, upon hoisting a trophy in Japan, Matsuyama spoke, “I owe my victory to the support of my fans.”
Recalling that victory, it feels just like yesterday when he had that immense support behind him at a time when he wasn’t necessarily playing golf in his best condition.
“This year, my first order of business is to bring myself back up to a level where support gives me strength. I need to take my place at the ‘start line’ so I can be among the championship competition on the final day.”
What Matsuyama gained in his ongoing day-to-day efforts over time goes beyond his major titles and other brilliant achievements. The tremendous support echoing across the golf course is Matsuyama proudest, greatest weapon, one that cannot be replaced.
NTT DATA has been sponsoring professional golfer Hideki Matsuyama since 2021. We believe that an unshakable will to solve problems and keen insight into times and trends is something that runs common among both top athletes and corporations. Going forward, NTT DATA will continue its challenge for the sake of creating a rich future society.