JAPANESE SENSATION MATSUYAMA IS FIRST ROYAL TROPHY PLAYER NOMINATION


Asia’s latest golfing sensation, Hideki Matsuyama, has been named as the first player to compete in this year’s edition of the Royal Trophy.

The 21 year old Japanese star has made an enormous impact on the game since turning professional in April – after a stellar amateur career that saw him surge to the top of the world rankings this time last year.

Matsuyama claimed his first victory as a professional in only his second start on the Japan Golf Tour, the 2013 Tsuruya Open. But that was not his first victory on the circuit, as he had shocked Asia’s top players by winning the 2011 Mitsui Sumitomo VISA Taiheiyo Masters as an amateur.

Matsuyama followed up his first professional win with two runner–up finishes before claiming his second victory at the Diamond Cup Golf tournament, and has carried that stunning form into the Major championships.

A top ten finish in his first US Open – at ultra-tough Merion in Philadelphia – lifted him into the top fifty of the world rankings, and he gave the impression he is there to stay by finishing in a share of sixth place at the Open Championship the following month, alongside Tiger Woods and former Masters champion Zach Johnson.

In fact, Matsuyama would have claimed a share of third place if he had not been controversially handed a one shot penalty for slow play in the second round, an apparently arbitrary decision when so many better-known players seemed to be taking just as much time over their shots.

But he won even more admirers by accepting that setback with enormous grace and dignity, and his modesty shone through again as he greeted the news of his selection to the newly-appointed Captain Y.E. Yang’s Asian Team.

Matsuyama commented: “I am honoured to have been selected by Captain Y.E. Yang as a member of the Asian Team for the next edition of the Royal Trophy.

“It will be tremendous to represent our continent and I will compete very hard to win as many matches as possible for our captain, teammates and continent.

“In golf we compete as individuals each week. But the opportunity to play as a team and to represent Asia against Europe is very special and something I regard very highly. I am very excited about playing at the Royal Trophy for the first time.

“The Europeans have great history in team golf with the Ryder Cup. But we will also go into the competition with great confidence as we are defending the Trophy and our continent was able to secure a fantastic victory last year.

“I will do all within my power and ability to contribute to an Asian defense of the Royal Trophy.

“I am very thankful to Captain Y.E. Yang for selecting me as a member of the Asian Team. I will do my utmost to help make his captaincy of Asia a very successful one and to be able to celebrate with him at the conclusion of the matches with an Asian victory.”

Yang, who became Asia’s first Major champion when he came from two shots behind Tiger Woods to win the 2009 US PGA Championship, has only just been nominated as Asian Captain for the 2013 Royal Trophy, opposite European Ryder Cup legend José Maria Olazábal.

And the Korean star said he had no hesitation in making the in-form Matsuyama his first selection.

Yang explained: “I am delighted to announce Hideki Matsuyama as a member of the Asian Team for the next edition of the Royal Trophy.

“He has had a tremendous first year as a professional player and I know that he will make a great contribution to the Team.

“Hideki Matsuyama has enjoyed great success in the Japan Tour this year and has performed very well and with great confidence against the best players in the world at the Majors.

“I am looking forward to having him as a powerful asset for my Team at Dragon Lake Golf Club when we confront the Europeans.”

Matsuyama’s growing stature in the game was underlined when he was chosen to partner eight-time winner Woods in the first two rounds of the prestigious Bridgestone Invitational tournament. That event marked Matsuyama’s debut in a World Golf Championship tournament, but he is being hailed as “the next big thing in golf” in the USA after such a stunning start to his professional career.

Television executives decided a Woods-Matsuyama combination was certain to generate big audience ratings, and the rising Japanese star is expected to prove an equally popular figure when he makes his first appearance in the Royal Trophy.

This year’s edition of the matches, closely associated with the late legendary five-time Major winner Seve Ballesteros as the inaugural European captain, will be held at Dragon Lake Golf Club in Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China on 20-22 December 2013.

It will be the seventh encounter between the continents of Asia and Europe, and the home team are the defending champions after a thrilling victory in a sudden death play-off in the Sultanate of Brunei last December – achieved by current captain Yang and fellow Korean K.T. Kim.

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