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Hideki Matsuyama Admits to Feeling ‘Numb’ Hours After Nasty Back Injury Scare at Arnold Palmer Invitational

Published 03/07/2024, 10:26 PM EST

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via Reuters

Hideki Matsuyama was seen holding his back before the opening round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Although the sore back didn’t have a drastic impact on his game—Matsuyama shot 5-under 67 to tie for the second spot in the first round—it has caused some problems in his leg. 

The eight-time PGA Tour winner, who was on the radar of LIV Golf CEO, Greg Norman, is coming off a victory at the Genesis Invitational, the Tour’s last Signature event, before stopping at Bay Hill. A late charge marked by a 50-foot eagle putt on the 16th saw the Japanese move up to the top. Now the question is, will the ailing back cut short his blazing run?

Hideki Matsuyama was trying to protect his back

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The Japanese pro was a notable absentee in the Pro-Am, raising concerns about withdrawal. How close was he to pulling out? Matsuyama confessed that his “back was not feeling perfect.” But withdrawing was not on his mind. “I was kind of hitting, kind of protecting myself, so, but I feel like I was able to keep the momentum from the previous tournament, so I think that really helped,” the former Masters champion said. 

Only last year, the 32-year-old had to withdraw from the BMW Championship. The second-round withdrawal put an end to his nine-consecutive Tour Championship appearance streak. Even before that, on November 2022, Matsuyama was forced to withdraw due because of a niggling neck injury. 

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The Japanese international revealed that the last time his back caused serious problems was some two years ago. This time, though, the pain has moved down to his leg as well. “It didn’t get worse since then. But my leg is a little numb right now, so it’s really not the perfect condition.” Hideki Matsuyama said this in the post-round press conference. The sore back caused some troubles on the greens as well, almost plunging him into a rule controversy. 

Read More: Who Is Hideki Matsuyama’s Caddie? PGA Tour Pro’s Bagman Explored

Matsuyama hit the ball twice during a chip

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Matsuyama carded five birdies in the opening round, along with an eagle and two bogeys, to post a 5-under 67. It could’ve been worse if not for a 2019 rule change. On the par-4 15th, Matsuyama’s club caught the ball twice during a chip from the rough. The Japanese international was frustrated with hitting his club against the rough. But thanks to a rule change in 2019, Hideki Matsuyama avoided a two-stroke penalty. 

Per the old rules, the eight-time PGA Tour winner would’ve incurred a one-stroke penalty. However, Rule 10.1a now states that if a player hits the ball twice accidentally, they won’t have to face the penalty. “Just as there is no penalty in stroke play if one player (or his or her equipment or caddie) accidentally deflects another player’s ball, there is no need for a penalty when a player (or the player’s equipment or caddie) accidentally deflects his or her own ball,” USGA announced while changing the rule. Hideki Matsuyama is in a two-way tie with Justin Lower, while Shane Lowry sits atop the leaderboard, carding 6-under-66.

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Written by:

Parnab Bhattacharya

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One take at a time

Parnab Bhattacharya is a Beat Writer at EssentiallySports in the Golf Division. With four years of writing experience, he is now exploring his deep-rooted love for the gentleman’s sport. Parnab's area of expertise is his predictive and perspective pieces, where he explores all things golf, diving deep into the whys and whats behind players' and Tours' moves in the sport, and unflinchingly voicing his take.
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Edited by:

Tushhita Barua

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