Hideki Matsuyama looks ahead after major breakthroughFirst goal among many is a gold medal in the Olympics
April 15, 2021
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Hideki Matsuyama’s best shots on the PGA TOUR
The weight of history was almost too much.
In his first interview since winning the Masters and returning home to Japan, Hideki Matsuyama said becoming the first from his country to win the coveted Green Jacket – or any men’s major, for that matter – was almost too overwhelming to think about as he navigated the course Sunday.
“I was filled with nerves from the first hole to the last,” said Matsuyama, who bogeyed three of the last four holes but still edged Will Zalatoris by one. “I never felt there was a time for me to let up even a little bit and relax.”
The victory was huge in Japan, with congratulations pouring in from all corners. Retired golfers like Isao Aoki and Jumbo Ozaki weighed in, as expected, but so did tennis pro Kei Nishikori and even Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Matsuyama, who spoke Sunday of inspiring kids back home, said in his press conference in Japan that he hopes his daughter will be among them. Japan’s women golfers, he added, have been pushing the men for years. His breakthrough victory came a decade after he was the low amateur at Augusta, and he climbed from 33rd to seventh in the FedExCup.
Now comes the question of what’s next. More history? Perhaps. Asked about capturing the remaining three major titles, he said he’ll have to draw up some new goals. He laughed when asked about the next 10 years, but he’s still just 29, and absent the weight of history he could feel liberated to summon his A game more often. He was T7 in greens in regulation and second in scrambling at Augusta. And his putting, always hot and cold, was good enough.
Most crucially, swing changes that Matsuyama had been working since the outset of this year – he was trying to break a win drought that dated to 2017 – have finally set. He sensed it prior to the opening round last week.
“Technically, I've had some pretty frustrating days since the beginning of this year and haven't been able to see the results that I've wanted,” he said. “But after my practice round on Wednesday, I felt like I kind of found something and started to feel pretty good about my chances that week. It’s hard to define what those feeling were but that was probably the biggest impression I had going into the tournament.”
Matsuyama did not play in the 2012 PGA Championship at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, where it will return May 20-23. Nor did he play in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, where the tournament will return June 17-20, or the 2011 Open Championship at Royal St. George’s, which will host that tournament a year later than originally planned, July 15-18.
After a three-week break, he will return to action at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina, May 6-9. His best in five Wells Fargo starts is a T11 in 2016, although he finished T5 at the 2017 PGA there.
Most top of mind, of course, for Matsuyama and throughout all of Japan, is the Olympics Men’s Golf Competition at Kasumigaseki Country Club in Saitama, Japan, July 29-Aug. 1.
“To be honest, I don’t know what will happen yet, but I think I will be selected via the rankings,” he said. “So right now, I just plan to be careful and try and avoid any injuries in the tournaments I have left to play before the Olympics, and then go there and win a gold medal.
“That’s my goal,” he added, “and I’ll do my best to accomplish it.”
Given the barrier he just broke, don’t bet against him.