The Loop

The other big Hero storyline this week? Hideki Matsuyama's march toward the top of the World Ranking

November 29, 2016

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It's understandable that Tiger Woods' return to golf after 15 months away has drawn most of all of the attention heading into this week's Hero World Challenge. There's even been a lot of chatter about how big of a jump the Big Cat can make in the Official World Golf Ranking. But no one seems to be talking about the man who will try to continue his march toward the top of that list this week in the Bahamas.

That would be Hideki Matsuyama, who is the hottest player in the world right now. And it's not even close.

When the Japanese star tees it up at Albany Golf Club on Thursday (He tees off 20 minutes after the noon pairing of Woods and Patrick Reed), he'll be attempting to win for the fourth time in five individual starts.

Matsuyama's torrid stretch began in October with a three-shot victory at the Japan Open, one of the Japan Golf Tour's major championships. His next win came later that month at the WGC-HSBC Champions, his third PGA Tour title and his first World Golf Championship triumph. Then Matsuyama lapped the field by seven shots at the Taiheyo Masters. He entered October at No. 18 in the Official World Golf Ranking, but he's currently moved all the way up to No. 6, becoming the first Japanese player to crack the top 10 since Jumbo Ozaki in 1998.

The one start Hideki Matsuyama didn't win during that span? A solo second at the PGA Tour's CIMB Classic. Yeah, he was really off that week. Matsuyama also finished T-6 with Ryo Ishikawa at last week's World Cup of Golf.

While it might seem like no one is paying attention to Matsuyama's recent run, oddsmakers have taken notice. According to Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, Matsuyama is tied with Jordan Spieth for second-lowest odds (13/2) in the 18-man field. World No. 3 and reigning PGA Tour player of the Year Dustin Johnson is the favorite at 9/2.

Another win this week, though, and it's hard to imagine Matsuyama being an underdog to anyone the next time he tees it up.