CHARLOTTE - Hideki Matsuyama has an “extra gear” in common with many of the greats, Ernie Els said on Friday after playing the second round of the PGA Championship with the Japanese player.
Els has been grouped with Matsuyama many times, but was still surprised when he watched his fellow competitor blow a drive over a fairway bunker guarding the left side of the slight dogleg at the 10th hole.
“What I saw today that I haven’t seen from Hideki is that little extra he has,” the South African veteran told a small group of reporters after Matsuyama had carded seven-under 64 to tie American Kevin Kisner for the second-round lead at Quail Hollow.
“I remember in my prime and a lot of other guys' primes when you needed it there was that 20 yards and he’s got that ability,” continued former world number one Els.
“Today on number 10 there’s a bunker at 310 (yards). He flew that bunker comfortably. When you have that kind of firepower, he’s got an extra gear. He plays within himself and then can let it go. The whole package is there.”
Els thinks world number three Matsuyama has “really paid his dues” by playing well in previous majors and hopes the Japanese player on Sunday becomes the first man from his country to win a major.
“There’s not really any flaws in (the swing and) he’s not scared of the lead,” Els said.
“Some guys shy away from the lead because they’re not sure of their games. I think he’s totally sure of his game. That 61 on Sunday (to win the Bridgestone Invitational) must have given the world of confidence.
“I would really like it if he wins because he’s really paid his dues now.”