star Hideki Matsuyama enters this week’s Masters Tournament in upbeat mood as he looks to repeat his historic triumph at Augusta National.

The World No. 12 became the first Asian golfer to win the coveted green jacket three years ago and hopes to launch another title run in the season’s first major backed by some recent solid form.

“To be able to win this tournament was a thrill beyond thrills,” Matsuyama said in a press conference on Monday. “I’m preparing hard to be able to do that again. You always like to peak for this week. Up until 2021, I always took the week off before the Masters, but now since then I’ve played the week before. It has been able to get me into tournament shape.”

The 32-year-old will be one of the stars to watch starting Thursday. He claimed a record ninth PGA TOUR title at the Genesis Invitational in February, snapping a two-year winless run to become the winningest Asian golfer on TOUR. He later went on to finish tied 12th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, equal sixth at THE PLAYERS Championship and joint seventh at the Valero Texas Open, results which have pushed him up to third place in the FedExCup points list. More importantly, he is also injury-free which hindered his game over the past few years.

In 12 previous starts at the Masters, Matsuyama has missed the cut only once, and produced two other top-10s and five top-20s to add to his impressive record at Augusta National which includes the momentous triumph in 2021 which saw him earn the Prime Minister’s Award in Japan.

Looking back, he is appreciative of the inauguration of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship which he won in 2010 in Tokyo that earned him a first Masters appearance where he finished tied 27th for low amateur honours in the following year. “Winning the Asian Amateur twice and being invited to the Masters tournament was really life-changing,” he said. “I always wanted to play here in the Masters. I watched it on TV a lot. I’m grateful to the members of Augusta National for what they have done, not only for me, but for golf in Asia. It’s been quite rewarding,” said Matsuyama.

“Probably the sweetest memory I have of the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship was when I won in Tokyo. I wasn’t in the field and thankfully was able to get into the field (due to additional spots being granted to the host nation) and win, and then to be able to be invited again to here to Augusta National, that was probably my sweetest memory.”

“Since coming here 13 years ago as a rookie, it was really a long learning process on playing the golf course and how the course should be played here at Augusta National. I’ve learned a lot. Luckily, I was able to win and now preparing to hopefully get back into the winner’s circle and another green jacket. Coming back to Augusta, it never gets old.”

Matsuyama will be joined on the hallowed turf by young compatriot, Ryo Hisatsune, who received a special invitation from Augusta National to compete in his first Masters. The 21-year-old is playing in his first full season on the PGA TOUR after earning dual membership via the DP World Tour Race to Dubai rankings.:00 GMT â€śMy life right now is not at all what I had imagined it would be. Over the last six months and really the last year, I feel like my golf game has improved dramatically and that’s really thanks to my time on DP World Tour,” said Hisatsune, who won the French Open last season to become the first Japanese winner in continental Europe in 40 years.

“I feel like my game-making has really improved the most. Every part of your game needs to be at the highest level to stay competitive (on the PGA TOUR) so I’ve really tried to utilize the weapons that I have in my own arsenal while continuing to play my own style of golf, which I think has had the biggest impact for me to stay competitive thus far.”

He took in a couple of practice rounds at Augusta National in the previous week, and was blown away when he stepped foot on the famous grounds. “It’s hard to express in words, but when I think of the Masters, it’s a tournament I remember watching as a kid, picking up the game, and then later deciding to make a career in golf. It has always been the tournament I wanted to play in the most. Of course seeing Mr. Matsuyama win really left an impact on me,” said Hisatsune, who has two top-25s from 10 starts on the PGA TOUR this season.

“It’s also my first major so I plan to play my own golf and enjoy myself. I just want to go in and enjoy my time and take in as much as I can. Regardless of the results, I’ll give it my best shot. I don’t have anything to fear.”

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