Matsuyama yearns for Olympics but can relate to cancel call

·3-min read
Reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan watches during Tuesday's practice round at the PGA Championship on Kiawah Island

Reigning Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama dearly wants to play golf in the Tokyo Olympics, but he understands why so many Japanese people want the Games called off.

Matsuyama, who spent two weeks alone in quarantine after his Augusta triumph in part to protect his family from Covid-19, watched spectators walk around Kiawah Island without masks Tuesday during practice rounds for the PGA Championship.

It's a sign of US vaccination success and loosened restrictions against Covid-19 while his homeland struggles against the deadly coronavirus, planned Olympic safety restrictions a grim reminder of what could happen.

"The virus is looked at a little bit differently in Japan than here in the United States," Matsuyama said.

"Just look around today. Lots of people are here watching golf without masks, where in Japan they're still very cautious.

"I can certainly understand those people who are voicing their opinion about (not having) the Olympics."

Asked about getting the vaccine in Japan, Matsuyama said: "It would take more time (in Japan) than here in the United States for sure."

Matsuyama, ranked 15th in the world, is set for an Olympic berth and wants the Games to be staged, not only for himself but for thousands of other Japanese athletes.

"Personally I'm looking forward to the Olympics and looking forward to playing, representing my country," Matsuyama said.

But golf only returned to the Olympic lineup at Rio in 2016 and the sport has four major events. His thoughts are upon those whose dreams of glory can be achieved only at an Olympics.

"There are other sports that the Olympics are the ultimate, the pinnacle of their sport," Matsuyama said. "And so I hope that the Olympics will be able to be held and in a great fashion that will make my fellow Japanese citizens proud."

Matsuyama returned home to celebrate his green jacket victory in Japan, but had to spent two weeks in quarantine.

"I was trying to keep my family safe," he said. "The first week of quarantine I was by myself in the hotel room. I didn't want to bring them the virus.

"But the second week I was in quarantine, my family was able to join me. I wish we could have celebrated right from the start, but in the end we were able to spend some time together and celebrate together."

Matsuyama said he pondered using his clubs while in lockdown.

"I really could have done something in my hotel room because it was a big room with a high ceiling," he said. "So I went into the closet where the clubs were.

"I looked at those clubs, and I was thinking about pulling one out, and then I thought, no, not today. That lasted for the whole time I was in Japan. I really didn't do much."

Matsuyama returned to the United States in time to play last week's PGA event in Texas and to try and win back-to-back major titles.

"Still trying to find my game," he said. "But hopefully this will be a good week for me."

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