Does gold go with green? Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama sure hopes so.
With Naomi Osaka, who lit the cauldron during the opening ceremony as one of Japan’s top sports celebrities, leapfrogging from women’s tennis in the third round of the Olympics, Matsuyama will take center stage as Japan’s top female athlete at the Tokyo Olympics. During his pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday, Matsuyama noted that watching his fellow Japanese athletes compete in the Olympics on his cell phone was very inspiring.
“Some of them won medals too. Last night I watched someone win the gold in table tennis as well, which was also inspiring.” “So I think I want to join them and do my best and turn the inspiration into the way I play well on the golf course.”
Departure times: Olympic golf competition for men
Matsuyama’s star power took to the next level in April when he became the first Japanese golfer to win a major and sent his country into a frenzy. Win gold at home? That would be athletic eternity.
But it won’t be easy.
Matsuyama hasn’t been the same golfer since winning the Masters. His best result since then is a draw for 23 in the PGA Championship. Last month, he was forced to withdraw from the Rocket Mortgage Classic after the first round when he tested positive for COVID-19. He also missed the British Open and hasn’t completed an event in six weeks.
“When I was initially diagnosed with COVID 19, the number was very high,” Matsuyama said. “I tested positive for COVID for about 10 days, so at that time I was just staying at home and doing my best to recover from my symptoms. During that time I wasn’t able to train, but as soon as I got back to Japan I started training. So in terms of preparation, it started.” A little bit with a delay but I hope to be in the best shape possible for this week’s event.”
Matsuyama, ranked No. 20 in the world, hasn’t worn the fact that his recent results haven’t lived up to his high standards.
“Since winning the Masters I haven’t had the best results yet this summer, so I’m a little nervous, but I’m really looking forward to it, I think it’s going to be really fun and I’m going to try and do my best to play well.”
Working for Matsuyama is knowing the local cycle. He won the 2009 Japan Junior Award at the Eastern Tournament of Kasumigaseki Country Club, and the 2010 Asia Pacific Amateur at the club’s West Course to earn his first invitation to the Masters Tournament.
“In a way Kasumigaseki has been a place and a catalyst for me to progress and grow, so I hope to do the same this week and take it to another level,” he said.
The pressure to succeed and win a home medal is tremendous pressure for Matsuyama, but he put in great color at the Augusta National in April, so there is no reason to believe this moment will be a big deal for him.
He said, “This is my first time playing in the Olympics, so I’m not sure how I feel, but I will do my best and try to get into the best position possible.”