Hideki Matsuyama jumps to top of PGA leaderboard with 2nd-round 64

Hideki Matsuyama 2017 PGA Championship Michael Madrid/USA TODAY Sports

Hideki Matsuyama jumps to top of PGA leaderboard with 2nd-round 64

PGA Tour

Hideki Matsuyama jumps to top of PGA leaderboard with 2nd-round 64

Kevin Kisner’s 4-shot lead held strong for a few hours, but Hideki Matsuyama joined him at the top of the leaderboard following a 7-under 64 to get to 8 under Friday in Round 2 of the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow.

Coming off a victory and final-round 61 at the WGC-Bridgestone Classic, Matsuyama found that same level of play with four straight birdies on the back nine. He matched Francesco Molinari for the low round of the tournament thus far, with Round 2 play suspended Friday night due to darkness.

“I’m riding the momentum from the round that I had on Sunday,” Matsuyama said through an interpreter. “Hopefully I can keep that going for 36 more holes.”

That would mean a great deal to Matsuyama personally, but the 25-year-old isn’t sure what becoming the first Japanese player to win a major would mean to everyone back home. It’s probably unfair to expect him to.

“I’m not really sure,” Matsuyama said. “That’s a difficult question, one that’s hard to think about, what effect that would have on my life, my family’s life. I’m not sure. I try to imagine, but we still have a lot of golf to play.”

Ranked No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings and No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking, Matsuyama has been playing a lot of good golf over the past several years.

He’s kind of a perfectionist and it’s comical how often he seems upset with good shots. Asked to describe his best and worst shots of the day, Matsuyama cited a tee shot to seven feet which led to birdie at the par-3 17th.

The worst?

“The worst shot, there was too many,” Matsuyama said. “I can’t count them all.”

Other players on the PGA Tour verbalize a slightly higher opinion of Matsuyama’s game.

Speaking to the media late Friday night, Jason Day described Matsuyama as the last guy to leave the range and “the hardest worker out here right now,” specifically in one key area.

“One of his weaknesses was his putting,” Day said. “Being able to strengthen that to where it is right now, not only through what he’s done but through the sheer hard work that he’s put in, that’s very impressive. That’s why he’s playing the way he is, because he always gives himself the opportunities because of how good he hits it. But to be able to change that weakness into a strength … is why he’s so dominant right now.”

Day shot 5-under 66 Friday and is solo third at 6 under. At this rate, we could see the two paired together in the final round Sunday as Matsuyama tries to accomplish something not even he can imagine.

“This is my first experience leading a major, or tied for the lead after 36 holes,” Matsuyama said. “Being a new experience, maybe I’ll be a little nervous, but on the other hand, I’m looking forward to the weekend and seeing how I do.”

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