How he hit that: Hideki Matsuyama's power-producing tempo
By Matthew Rudy
At less than 6 feet and 170 pounds, Hideki Matsuyama doesn't look like a powerhouse. But the 22-year-old PGA Tour rookie -- and reigning Japanese tour money leader -- reconfirmed his arrival as a top-tier player with a display of power and precision in his first American win at the Memorial.
Matsuyama averages a little less than 300 yards per drive by making full use of his lower body, and he unleashes his speed with a signature pause at the top of his backswing. "Matsuyama isn't very big, but he's extremely long for his size," says Jorge Parada, head instructor at the Tour Academy at TPC Sawgrass. "He and Rory McIlroy are similar in that you don't get a sense for how far they hit it from their backswing. They both make a complete turn and don't rush into the downswing."
The pause at the top begins the kinematic sequence that separates average hitters from power players. "Studies show that the longest tour players start the downswing with the feet, then move the knees and hips before the torso and everything else following," says Parada, who works with Jonas Blixt, David Lingmerth and Anna Nordqvist among other tour pros. "Matsuyama goes pretty hard on the downswing. He's not leaving anything behind. But he's doing it in the right order. His hips and legs drive and unwind as the chest and arms follow, and his arms never move out in front of his body. That's why he's able to maintain such good balance throughout his finish."
Amateur players often fall into the "speed trap" -- feeling that they're making too quick of a transition at the top of the backswing and trying to remedy it by slowing everything down. "When I hear that, I'll ask my student if it's better to hit a 400-yard drive or a 200-yard drive," Parada says. "Being too quick isn't the problem. It's not matching the backswing with the downswing."
To get some of Matsuyama's rhythm and power, make practice swings without a ball and come to a complete stop at the top of the backswing. "From that static position, your body becomes more aware. You're not just making a downswing as a reaction to your backswing," Parada says. "After the pause, practice starting the downswing with your lower body, first slowly and then working up to full speed. Your brain is telling your muscles what needs to move first in the swing."
Photo: Getty Images