Pressure exists in all shapes and sizes. That fact will be quite clear while watching the final round of the Zozo Championship at Narashino Country Club outside Tokyo.
Hideki Matsuyama, the leader by one at 10 under par after 54 holes, will feel one type of pressure. The 29-year-old, making his 200th career PGA Tour start this week, is an icon in his home country after becoming the first Japanese male to win a major championship with his Masters victory in April.
A “golfing Elvis” was how Pat Perez described Matsuyama and the following from golf fans that he has in his native country during the Golf Channel’s third-round broadcast. Indeed, add the attention given to nearly every other golfer in the field this week—including Xander Schauffele who won a gold medal in Tokyo this summer—and you still don’t have as many cameras and media following as there are for Matsuyama. Even so, he’s held up quite well through three rounds, posting 64-68-68. He finished second to Tiger Woods in 2019, when the event was first played in Japan, and has seemed to learn to adapt to the attention if not fully embrace it. This will be the sixth time in his career that he holds a 54-hole lead entering the final round of a PGA Tour event, and he’s come through twice before in some big spots (2016 WGC-HSBC Champions and the 2021 Masters).
Meanwhile, Cameron Tringale, the man who trails Matsuyama by a stroke, will have his own kind of pressure to deal with, an internal pressure that emanates from something missing in an otherwise impressive PGA Tour career. The 34-year-old Georgia Tech grad is making his 314th PGA Tour start and is still searching for his first win. Should he grab it, he would shed the ignominious label of the tour pro to have earned the most money in his PGA Tour career without a victory ($14,522,401).
Tringale found himself in the same spot three weeks ago at the Sanderson Farms Championship (one back of the lead with 18 holes left) only to shoot a one-under 71 and finish T-11, his best showing in four events in the 2021-22 season to date. Whether that experience motivates him or makes him a bit more hesitant will be something to watch for.
Not far back of Matsuyama and Tringale are an assortment of talented players with their own pressures to face. Matt Wallace (six under) and Tommy Fleetwood (five under) are both high-profile Englishman looking to prove doubters wrong about being able to win on the PGA Tour. Brendan Steele (six under) is eyeing a fourth career tour win, but one that would come with easily the largest payday ($1.791 million to the winner) of his 12-year career. Sebastian Munoz (six under) and Branden Grace (five under) are looking for validation from previous victories and comfort in being able to start their 2021-22 seasons high atop the FedEx Cup standings.
For sure, everybody has a lot to play for, figuratively and literally. The overall prize money payout at the Zozo Championship is $9.95 million with all those in the field who finish four rounds earning a check. Below is the prize money payout for each golfer. Come back shortly after the finish of the tournament on Sunday and we’ll update with the specific payouts for each golfer.