Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama back in contention at the PGA Championship

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Hideki Matsuyama at the 2021 PGA Championship
Looking for back-to-back major wins, Hideki Matsuyama is just two shots back halfway through the PGA Championship. (Darren Carroll/PGA of America/Getty Images

Fresh off his win at Augusta National, Hideki Matsuyama has put himself right in the mix at another major championship.

Matsuyama sits just two shots back halfway through the PGA Championship, thanks to a second-round 68 on Friday at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island in South Carolina.

“I really hit my driver and second shots very well today,” Matsuyama said, “and that gave me a lot of birdie opportunities which I was able to capitalize on.”

He matched co-leader Louis Oosthuizen for the low round of the day, which launched him 37 spots up the leaderboard. Matsuyama would have been just a single shot back from Oosthuizen and Mickelson, but an errant bunker shot on the final hole of the day left him with a bogey — just another sign of how tough the final stretch of the course really is.

“You’d better make some birdies on those [early] holes because those last four or five holes are very difficult,” Matsuyama said. “Being able to make birdies on those downwind holes makes it a whole lot easier because you’re not under the pressure. You can lose a stroke here or there on the final holes.”

Matsuyama looking for back-to-back majors

Matsuyama became the first Japanese man to ever win a major championship last month with his commanding victory at the Masters, which sparked a massive celebration tour back home.

Before he could celebrate with his friends, family and even Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, though, Matsuyama had to quarantine for two weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. By the time he got back to the States, he hadn’t played much golf at all.

That showed last week at the AT&T Byron Nelson, his only appearance on the PGA Tour between the two majors. He finished T39 in the Dallas-area tournament — which he said going into it was just meant to be a way to get back into the swing of things.

Clearly, that seems to have worked.

Matsuyama, after an opening round 73, made six birdies on Friday to vault himself into contention. A win this week would put him into an elite class of golfers who have won back-to-back majors. Only Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have done that this century.

Matsuyama, however, isn’t trying to think about that just yet.

“Hopefully my play today will carry over to the weekend,” he said.

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