A year ago at the Zozo Championship, Hideki Matsuyama held a one-shot lead entering the final round at Narashino Country Club outside Tokyo. Naturally, there was a certain kind of pressure felt by the Japanese icon, playing his 200th PGA Tour event, to close out the tournament in front of his loyal local fans. And he followed through, shooting a Sunday 65 to win the title by five shots.
This Sunday, Rickie Fowler, sitting at 14 under par, holds a one-shot lead with 18 holes to play as he makes his 299th career tour start. He, too, feels a pressure, but of a different variety. Stuck on five career tour wins since 2019 and seeing his World Ranking fall to 160th, the 33-year-old can erase the narrative of a sinking career and return to a prominence that more closely mirrors the popularity he still holds with golf fans.
To do so, however, will require a resilience that he hasn’t always shown in final rounds. Fowler is 2-for-8 when it comes to closing out tournaments when hold the outright lead or a share with 18 holes to play, the last time coming at the 2019 Waste Management Phoenix Open. And his chasers have their own redemption stories to try to write.
Keegan Bradley, trailing by one, is trying to win a fifth career title but his first since 2018. Andrew Putnam is two back, looking for a second career title that would be his first since 2018, too. Viktor Hovland is two back, and at No. 11 in the world, is by far the highest ranked player in the hunt.
Whoever pulls out the title will be rewarded nicely for his effort. The winner earns a first-place prize money payout of $1.98 million from an overall purse of $11 million. Here’s he prize money payouts for the entire field in Japan. Come back Sunday and we’ll update the names and individual totals after the conclusion of the tournament.