PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA – Hideki Matsuyama said Tuesday he remains focused on playing solid golf long-term, and will let his form determine whether he accomplishes his goal of becoming world No. 1 at this week’s tournament in California, or later.
In a press conference prior to the Genesis Open, Matsuyama said that he spent the last week relaxing in Los Angeles, reminiscing about his Phoenix Open victory while contemplating how to make adjustments to improve his game.
The 24-year-old became the first back-to-back winner of the Phoenix Open in 42 years after beating Webb Simpson in a four-hole playoff on Feb. 5, only days after he moved up a notch to a career-high fifth in the world rankings.
It was Matsuyama’s fifth victory in his last nine starts worldwide, a stretch that included his triumph in the prestigious World Golf Championships HSBC Champions at Shanghai in October.
Matsuyama will tee it up Thursday with a chance to rise from fifth in the world rankings to No. 1. He’d need a victory, and even then it would depend on where current world No. 1 Jason Day finishes.
“He’s been playing tremendous,” Day said of Matsuyama. “He’s one of those guys that goes under the radar, no one really thinks about Hideki too much and then he’s always there.”
Matsuyama said that kind of comment only fueled his determination to improve.
“To have a player like Jason Day say that I might be underrated is a great compliment and an honor,” he said. “But also to be able to live up to that expectation and to try to get better is a motivating factor for me.”
Another motivator is the prospect of gaining the No. 1 ranking, although Matsuyama wasn’t getting ahead of himself there.
“I did know that that is a possibility and I can’t control what Jason does this week,” he said. “All I can do is go out and try my best and hopefully things will fall into place.
“It’s always been one of my goals and it would be a great goal to be able to achieve. But whether it happens this week or next or sometime in the future, I’ll just keep working hard and hopefully that will happen.”
Meanwhile, Matsuyama expressed his desire for Japan to host the Tokyo Olympic golf competition at Kasumigaseki Country Club, the course in Saitama that has sparked a sexism row due to its policy of not allowing women to become full members.
Matsuyama didn’t wade into the thorny debate sparked when Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said she felt “uncomfortable” with the idea that women couldn’t become full members of the club — a fact that has also sparked concerns from the International Olympic Committee.
The IOC has requested the private club to lift its ban on female membership, though the board members of the club have not yet reached a decision on whether to review its membership policy.
Amid calls to move the Olympic tournament, Matsuyama merely said he hoped that wouldn’t prove necessary.
“There are some membership questions right now, but I played well there at Kasumigaseki, won Japan Junior there, Asian Amateur,” Matsuyama said.
“When I won there, that’s kind of what made it all possible, why I’m sitting here today. So I hope they get things worked out and I hope Kasumigaseki will be the site of the Tokyo Olympic golf competition.”