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Matsuyama targets Olympic title

Agence France-Presse

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HIDEKI Matsuyama / Kevin C. Cox/ Agence France-Presse

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Newly minted Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama set his sights on Tokyo Olympics gold on Wednesday after returning to Japan clutching his victor’s green jacket in triumph.

Matsuyama spoke to reporters online from quarantine having returned to his home country the previous day, after becoming the first Japanese man to win a major.

A calm but tired-looking Matsuyama — wearing his green jacket — told reporters he “doesn’t want to pick up a club” while he enjoys his victory.

But the 29-year-old is eyeing more major titles — and Olympic gold on home soil — in the months and years to come, and hopes he can inspire a new generation of Japanese golfers.

“I’ve proved that a Japanese can wear the green jacket,” said Matsuyama, adding that the huge reaction in golf-mad Japan has brought home the size of his achievement.

“I used to want to be like Tiger Woods, so if kids now want to be like me, that would make me very happy.”

Matsuyama said he started to feel good about his chances after the last day of practice, following a frustrating result at the previous week’s Valero Texas Open.

But he still had to contend with the pressure of his final round at Augusta, admitting he “felt nervous from the first hole to the last.”

Now he is trying to come to terms with the scale of his achievement, and knows he will be under the microscope like never before.

“I want to keep putting everything into my golf, the same as I always have, but I think I will get a lot more attention now,” he said.

“I’ve done bad things like throwing clubs plenty of times before, and I want to try to make sure I don’t let anyone see me doing that now.”

Olympic ambition
Matsuyama said he is not sure if he will play in the Wells Fargo Championship starting 3 May, but he intends to enter the AT&T Byron Nelson starting 13 May.

One other tournament on the horizon is the coronavirus-delayed Tokyo Olympics, which he has his sights set on winning.

“Quite honestly, I don’t know what’s going to happen with the Olympics yet, but I think I will be chosen to play,” he said.

“I want to be careful not to get injured before then, and I want to set the gold medal as my target.”

It could all have been so different if the normally stoic Matsuyama had stayed in the foul mood that he found himself in at the Texas Open the previous week.

A good start that eventually fell apart made him “grouchy”, and he took his frustration out on his caddy and other members of his team.

“Then I started wondering why I was doing that,” Matsuyama said.

“I’m glad I got it out my system before the Masters started.”

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