Japan’s history-maker Hideki Matsuyama returns for his first tournament this week following his momentous Masters Tournament victory which he hopes will pave the way to more success on the PGA TOUR.
And he has an eye on the PGA Championship too.
A month after becoming the first Japanese to don the Green Jacket, Matsuyama tees up at the AT&T Byron Nelson and said his time spent at home allowed him to soak in the magnitude of his success at Augusta National, which created headlines throughout Japan and around the world. He also earned the Prime Minister’s Award, one of the nation’s most prestigious accolades.
“I was quarantined for two weeks and I was able to probably read every news article and newspaper and magazine and TV. And seeing how the Masters win was portrayed in Japan was great, really unforgettable, and that really stands out for my trip back to Japan. It was by far the most. A bit embarrassing as I’m not used to all that attention, but grateful that people took notice,” said Matsuyama on Tuesday.
He returned to the U.S. at the end of last week in preparation of this week’s stop at TPC Craig Ranch and got straight back to work on Monday. With the mandatory quarantine at home and spending time with family in Sendai, Matsuyama shut down and decompressed from the historic victory. He is now ready to get back into the grind in search of a seventh PGA TOUR title.
“After you win a tournament, you make some adjustments and you go on but this time going back to Japan and really not picking up a club much over there, I didn’t get to practice very much at all. And then coming back here, and I’m just, really one of my goals now is just to try to find my game again and prepare for the PGA Championship next week,” he said.
“It was a relief, really, to win the Masters. It had been awhile and now moving forward, I still have the drive to want to win more on the PGA TOUR. It’s kind of an unusual combination of the two feelings of how I look at myself and hopefully I’ll be successful in the future.”
As he looks ahead to earning more silverware and prepare for an upcoming appearance at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in July, Matsuyama will also do his homework on what to serve in the Masters Champions’ dinner next April. The winner enjoys the privilege of setting the menu and Matsuyama hopes to introduce some of Japan’s finest delicacies to fellow Masters champions.
“Yeah, sushi does come to mind. I’m a little worried. I don’t know if everyone will really like sushi or not, but I’m going to check with some people and get their advice and what they think. There’s a lot of really good food from Japan, a lot of, some of the best beef in the world, so I’m thinking about that and looking forward to it next year,” he said.
This week’s AT&T Byron Nelson will hold great significance for Korea’s Sung Kang, the defending champion. He won two years ago at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas and will defend this week at TPC Craig Ranch, which happens to be his home course. The tournament was not played last year due to COVID-19.
“This is my home course, I live about five miles from here and then I’ve been practicing here probably the last 10 years. And then I just became a member last year. So I really know the course, I know the people here, I mean I get a lot of good support, I get all the good influence and all that, so I think I’m very excited and I’ll be very comfortable on the golf course, it will be very fun, I think, this week,” said Kang, who will play the first two rounds with Matsuyama and World No.3 Jon Rahm.
He is counting on the comfort of being at home to turn around his golf fortunes around. This season, Kang has missed more cuts than made them and currently lies in 184th position on the FedExCup ranking. “Since the pandemic I’ve been really struggling until probably last month with the technical problems in my golf swing, but my coach and myself, we figured what was going on and then I got really close to where it used to be and now I’m actually working more with the technique. I think it’s almost there and plus this week I’m playing on my home course, I’m going to feel really comfortable and hopefully everything works out great and I can get the same results in 2019.”