Reuters/ New York, United States
This has been one life-changing month for Hideki Matsuyama.
On April 11, the Japan native was putting the finishing touches on a historic one-stroke victory over Will Zalatoris at the Masters, becoming the first player from his home country to win a men’s golf major.
On Tuesday, the 29-year-old was explaining to reporters two days before the start of the AT&T Byron Nelson in McKinney, Texas, just how much his life has transformed from notable player to sudden star, and all that entails.
One sports marketing expert estimated to Sportico the day after the Masters triumph that Matsuyama’s win may be worth $600mn in endorsements, in total, over the rest of his life.
Imagine all the attention and adulation from fans watching his every move.
Turns out he had to imagine the in-person part, too, thanks to a two-week quarantine when he returned to Japan.
“Probably the one thing that stands out is I got back to Japan and I was quarantined for two weeks and I was able to probably read every news article and newspaper and magazine and TV (story),” Matsuyama said Tuesday, admitting a mixture of pride and embarrassment over all of his media coverage. “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.”
Sequestered with his family, the six-time PGA champion soaked it all in, including becoming nervous all over again watching highlights of his Augusta victory.
After quarantine ended, he was bestowed the Prime Minister’s Award from Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, which included a certificate heralding how the Masters title “conveys the importance of perseverance to our people, and provides dreams and hopes that are truly remarkable”.
The importance of his accomplishment has not been lost on Matsuyama.
“I realise now the responsibility that goes with a major championship, especially the Masters,” he said. “I’m honoured. I’m flattered by the added attention, but at the same time, sometimes it’s difficult to say no. But it goes with the territory, and again, grateful that I have this opportunity and I’ll try my best to prepare well for what’s to come.”
What’s next for Matsuyama is his return to the tour. He told media members that he rarely picked up a club in the past month, when he said he normally would have practised quite a bit after trips back home.
Matsuyama shared that he was able to work in nine holes Monday at the TPC Craig Ranch, site of the AT&T Byron Nelson, despite less-than-optimal weather. He hopes to shake off any rust that may have accumulated over the past month.
“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,” Matsuyama said. “And then coming back here,... really one of my goals now is just to try to find my game again and prepare for the PGA Championship next week.”
Not that he’s complaining, of course.
Japan golf star Matsuyama joins chorus of Olympic concerns
Tokyo, Japan: Masters champ Hideki Matsuyama has become the latest Japanese star to express doubts about this summer’s Olympics, saying he has “mixed feelings” about holding the event given a virus surge in Japan.
His comments come after tennis star Naomi Osaka said she was “not really sure” the pandemic-postponed Tokyo Games should go ahead, with fellow player Kei Nishikori also urging a discussion on the wisdom of staging the event.
Speaking before the US PGA Byron Nelson tournament, Matsuyama said he wanted to “aim for the gold” in Tokyo, but admitted he was in two minds.
“I don’t know what to say. If it can really be held safely, I’d like to aim for the gold medal. But there are a rising number of infections in Japan and it’s in a bad situation,” said Matsuyama.
“For some people it’s only once every four years... I want those people to be able to participate, but when you look at the situation Japan is in, I have mixed feelings.”
Organisers insist the Games can be held, and have released rulebooks they say will ensure the safety of participants and the Japanese public.
Yesterday, they pointed to a string of recent test events held successfully in Tokyo and elsewhere despite a virus state of emergency in parts of the country including the capital.
“More than 700 athletes and over 6,000 related staff participated in the four test events,” organisers said, saying only one virus case was detected, in a diving coach who tested positive on arrival. (AFP)
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