Japanese ace Hideki Matsuyama fired a sublime 7-under 65 to charge into solo second place at the halfway stage of the US$20 million Memorial Tournament presented by Workday on Friday as he attempts to reclaim the title he won in 2014 for his PGA TOUR breakthrough.
The 31-year-old Matsuyama was in blistering form with seven birdies at Muirfield Village Golf Club for a 7-under 137 total to lie one back of second round leader Justin Suh, who signed for a 66 as he chases a maiden TOUR victory. Matsuyama produced the week’s first bogey-free card.
Korean star Si Woo Kim also enjoyed a solid day as he carded a 68 to move into tied fifth place on 5-under as he chases a second win of the season.
After opening with a 72, Matsuyama swiftly put himself back in the title hunt thanks to some delightful iron play and hot putting. He hit 16 greens in regulation and ranked second in Strokes Gained: Putting where he picked up 3.36 strokes over the field. He rolled in birdie putts of 25 feet and 33 feet on the seventh and eighth holes respectively, his 16th and 17th hole of the day.
Sporting a beard, Matsuyama beamed with delight in his post-round interview, especially when he has endured a relatively quiet season which has seen him register only two top-10s and dealing with a persistent neck injury he picked up last year.
“My putting. To make those putts at 7 and 8 were huge,” said Matsuyama, who is currently ranked 62nd on the FedExCup points list.
“I made some good par saving putts today. The course is playing tough, especially the greens. If the greens get even harder than they are now, it is going to be a challenge this weekend. But today, the putts went in and so I’m satisfied. The result was good. It’s been a tough spell. I had an injury on my neck and my distance is down. I’m working through it and hopefully, we’ll have a good summer.”
A return to the Memorial Tournament, which is hosted by golf legend Jack Nicklaus, brings back fond memories for Matsuyama, who enjoyed his career breakthrough with a playoff triumph in 2014. He has since won a total of eight PGA TOUR victories, including the 2021 Masters Tournament.
“I really like this golf course. I wish I could play it more in a non-tournament setting because it’s just fantastic here. But it is a difficult golf course and that’s the big challenge. All I can do now is just hope for a good weekend, wake up tomorrow and do my best,” said Matsuyama, who holds two other top-10s at Muirfield Village.
Kim, who is presently ranked 10th on the FedExCup points list, traded five birdies, including a monstrous 52-footer on the 10th hole against a lone bogey, to head into the weekend just three shots off the pace.
“I think I kept it on a lot of fairways and then I hit a lot of greens. I think that’s the happiest part,” said the four-time TOUR winner. “It’s hard to keep it in the fairway (though), especially the last hole. I played all right yesterday, but I didn’t drop too many putts. But today’s way better, like 10 to 20 feet. I think that’s the game changer.”
Suh enjoyed seven birdies on the card to lead on 8-under 136. This is the third time he has held a 36-hole lead/co-lead on the PGA TOUR following the 2021 Corales Puntacana Championship and this year’s Honda Classic, which he settled for T28 and T5 respectively.
Korean stars Byeong Hun An and S.H. Kim posted matching 71s to progress into the weekend on T22 and T53. Countryman Sungjae Im also made it through the weekend in tied 53rd position following a 76.
Second-Round Notes – Friday, June 2, 2023
Weather: Sunny. High of 93. Wind NE 6-12 mph.
Cut: 66 professionals at 3-over 147 from a field of 119 professionals and one amateur.
Justin Suh 70-66—136 (-8)
Hideki Matsuyama 72-65—137 (-7)
David Lipsky 69-69—138 (-6)
Patrick Cantlay 71-67—138 (-6)
Si Woo Kim 71-68—139 (-5)
Mark Hubbard 69-70—139 (-5)