Stats say don’t expect more success from Hideki Matsuyama in 2021

David Dusek
·3 min read

There are four stages to an angler’s career, with the first being that you just want to catch a fish. After that, you want to catch a lot of fish, and then you want to catch a big fish. The last stage is when you want to catch a lot of big fish.

Professional golfers go through similar stages of development, from wanting to win a tournament, to wanting to win lots of tournaments, winning a major and finally winning several majors. By capturing the title at Augusta National two weeks ago, Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama has achieved the third stage. At 29, he now has six PGA Tour wins and eight international wins. Those titles now include the WGC-Bridgestone Championship, the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Masters.

Matsuyama’s breakout season on the PGA Tour came in 2017 when he won three times and rose as high as No. 2 in the world. He finished that year ranked fifth.

Winning a major championship is great, but winning the Masters is unique because it is the first of the four, so players who win at Augusta still have a significant portion of the season in front of them. If they were good enough to win at Augusta National, conventional wisdom would think they should be able to win more in the months that follow.

But does winning the Masters typically lead to more success for the golfer who slips into the green jacket? Is a win at Augusta National predictive of more success later in that season? Based on the numbers in the table below, the answer is clear: Winning the Masters does not typically lead to more wins later in the season.

The 2020 Masters was postponed until November, so Dustin Johnson’s Masters is not included here, but as you can see, six of the 11 players listed in the table above failed to win another tournament after they won their Masters. As a group, they won just nine tournaments in the seasons after their Masters victories and averaged just over four more top-10 finishes.

Adam Scott, in 2013, was the only player to make the cut in all of his remaining tournaments after winning his Masters. Scott, who won in 2013, and Jordan Spieth, the winner in 2015, are also the only players to win multiple times since 2009 during the same season after they won the Masters.

As he does in most statistical matters, Tiger Woods dominates in post-Masters performances. He has won five times at Augusta, and while he typically played fewer total events than most players, he won at least one tournament every year after winning a Masters. He also averaged four more top-10 finishes.

After taking two more weeks off, Matsuyama is expected to play the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Golf Club in Charlotte, North Carolina. His best performance there is a T-11, although he did tie for fifth when it hosted the 2017 PGA Championship. He has stated that his next goal is to win a gold medal at the 2021 Olympics, which will be hosted by Japan in August.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, only people living in Japan will be spectators at the Olympics this summer, so Matsuyama should get most of the cheers at the Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, where the Olympic golf events will be played.

Local support and experience on the course could help to propel Matsuyama to Olympic golf, but if history is a guide, we will not see much more success from Matsuyama in 2021.