In winning the RBC Heritage Classic in a playoff against Si Woo Kim on Hilton Head Island today, 28-year old Japanese golfer Satoshi Kodaira became just the 4th golfer from his country to win on the PGA Tour.
As a result of his win Kodaira moves to a personal high of 27 in the world ranking, earns the right to take up membership of the PGA Tour and if his post victory comments are anything to go by then the USA will be his hunting ground in the mid to long term.
“This is a stage I’ve been dreaming about,” said Kodaira. “And having this opportunity to play full-time is a dream come true. So, of course, I will accept the full-time membership.”
Kodaira will join his fellow countryman Hideki Matsuyama (two years his junior) on the PGA Tour and today spoke about what an inspiration the now five time winner of the PGA Tour has been to him.
“I’ve been watching Hideki Matsuyama in Japan, and I’ve always looked up to him or wanted to play just as well. So I feel that I’m getting closer to that level. So I’d like to do my best in major championships and hopefully work hard at it.
“Hideki is a great player, and of course I’m not as good as him, but I’m getting closer. But his course management skills is what I’d like to learn from him or being better at management of the course.”
Isao Aoki, Shigeki Maruyama, Hideki Matsuyama and now Kodaira are Japanese golfers to have won on the world’s most significant tour, Aoki becoming the first with his Hawaiian Open win in 1983, Maruyama with three victories and Matsuyama with five and climbing.
The six time Japan Tour event winner won his first PGA Tour title in just his 15th start but he has been a prolific winner of titles and money in Japan since first joining that tour in 2011 as a 21 year old.
Not only has he won six titles in his home country he has been a consistently high finisher especially over the last eighteen months or so.
In fact in his two Japan Tour starts this season in Myanmar and Singapore he had finished runner-up and then with the right to play events in Australia and the US he continued that good form including a debut 28th at the Masters.
It was not only the victory but rather the manner of his win today that so impressed a rather shocked golfing audience who were least expecting a win by a man with such limited experience in this situation.
Kodaira’s final round of 66 was the equal best of the day and his second round of 63 also set the tone on Friday.
This win perhaps more than many of the others will offer the belief of other Japanese players such as Yuta Ikeda, Yusaku Miyazato, Hideto Tanihara and indeed Ryo Ishikawa that winning on the holy grail of professional golf, the PGA Tour is not the bridge too far it might have previously seemed.
Now the task for a male Japanese golfer to reach greatness and receive cult status in his home country is to win a major.
It is not the near impossible dream it might have been two years ago.
Photo top – Matsuyama – Japan’s best internationally thus far