Matsuyama a contender now — and in the future

Hideki Matsuyama acknowledges the fans after finishing the third round of The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Greg Bartram/Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

DUBLIN, Ohio – Get to know Hideki Matsuyama.

He may not win the Memorial Sunday, and he may not win at all on the PGA Tour this year.

But he will win. And maybe sooner rather than later.

The 22-year old Japanese sensation is contending for the second straight week against some of the game’s biggest names. He was part of a four-way tie for first after three rounds at last week’s Colonial, and against a deeper field this week at Muirfield Village Golf Club he enters Sunday in third place at -10, two shots off the lead of Bubba Watson.

Matsuyama will play Sunday with Adam Scott, who was also his playing partner here at Muirfield last fall during the President’s Cup.

"Playing in last year’s Presidents Cup has really helped me this week," Matsuyama said. "It gave me an idea what the course is like and helped me to get my lines. And so that was really a plus for me to be able to play it last year in the Presidents Cup."

He speaks to American media through an interpreter. After three rounds last week, he said, "Gradually, week by week my game has gotten better, and I feel like I can compete now."

The word is out.

Matsuyama made the cut at the Masters in 2011, the same year he won his first professional tournament in Japan, the Visa Taiheiyo Masters. He’s since won four times in Japan and just turned pro in 2013.

Last week was his third top 10 on the PGA Tour this year in 15 events and missed the cut only once in seven events last year. He’s still chasing his first win and plays in PGA events through a non-member earnings exemption, meaning he doesn’t just show up at these events but contends.

Here he is again.

He missed the cut at the Masters this year, but he’s fully exempt for all four majors. Sunday, he’ll tee it up next to Scott, the world’s No. 1 ranked player, and let it fly.

Matsuyama is No. 24 in the latest world rankings, a spot behind where he finished last season and more than 100 spots ahead of where he finished 2012. He figures to continue to climb, and maybe sooner rather than later.