Golf: Matsuyama set for Open debut

GULLANE, United Kingdom - Rising Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama has sought out the advice of veteran compatriot Shigeki Maruyama to help him prepare for his British Open debut at Muirfield this week.

The 21-year-old, who was Asian amateur champion in 2011 and 2012, made his professional debut only in April when he started his fourth year at a Japanese university.

But he has since won twice and finished runner-up twice in eight domestic tournaments to lead the Japan Tour's money list at 99 million yen ($980,000), more than double the total of the second-placed player.

Matsuyama also finished tied for 10th in his first US Open last month. He is currently ranked 46th in the world and has also qualified for the year's final major, the August 5-11 PGA Championships in Rochester, New York.

But playing on links courses like Muirfield is something that is new to him and Maruyama, who has played in six Opens, had valuable insight to hand on to him.

"I did just meet with Shigeki Maruyama, who finished fifth here in 2002.

And he gave me a lot of advice not only on links courses but here on Muirfield," Matsuyama said after playing a third practice round at the course.

"Shigeki told me that the wind is usually strong here at Muirfield and I need to hit the ball low. And we talked a lot about how to hit the low shots and he helped me a lot there."

Matsuyama's progress up the world rankings and the potential he has shown at home has drawn comparisons with fellow 21-year-old Ryo Ishikawa but hopes are high that he will be able to be more competitive when playing abroad.

Ishikawa turned professional amid much fanfare in 2008 and he quickly dominated the Japan Golf Tour.

But to date his forays abroad have been marked mainly by failure, missing the cut in nine of the 18 majors he has played in. His best finish to date was a tie for 20th at the 2011 Masters.

Matsuyama though was quick to play down any comparisons between the two young hopes.

"I've only been a pro for really just a couple of months. And as far as shouldering or taking over for Ishikawa, I haven't even thought of that," he said.

"All I'm doing is trying to play the best golf that I can, gain the experience that I need and just go out and play golf."

Matsuyama has been handed a lively start to his Open career being paired with big guns Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy with a 9:44 am (0844 GMT) start.