MASTERS TOURNAMENT MEDIA CONFERENCE
March 22, 2022
Augusta, Georgia, USA
Masters Champion Teleconference
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. This is Regina O'Brien and we appreciate you joining us on the call today with 2021 Masters champion, Hideki Matsuyama. Thank you also to Hideki for your time. We look forward to welcoming you back to Augusta National very soon. I did want to take a moment to acknowledge the earthquake that much of Japan experienced last week. We have been thinking about the people of Japan and those who have been impacted, and I did also want to thank this group for your flexibility in rescheduling this call.
Hideki, I was hoping you would reflect on what it has meant to you personally to spend the past year as the reigning Masters champion.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: It's been a fantastic year. It's been a great blessing to become the Masters champion and to have so many people send me their best wishes and encouragement. It's been great to go to the various tournaments and to be introduced as the Masters champion and have the gallery warmly receive me and call my name. It's really been a fantastic year.
THE MODERATOR: We've really been proud of you to represent us as our champion. We'll now start the Q & A.
Q. It's usually Masters tradition for the champion to give a club to Augusta National that was very meaningful for them. Have you done that, and which club did you choose?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Yeah, I sent a 56-degree wedge to Augusta National already.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: I used that 56-degree wedge a lot last year at the Masters, and it was one of the reasons why I was able to win. The club performed very well, and it was one of the big reasons why I was able to win last year.
Q. Could you talk about when you first kind of formed a relationship with Shigeki Maruyama and what Maruyama has meant to you over the years.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Shigeki has been a great mentor for me. We first got together in 2013 on the Japan Tour, and a lot of the tournaments there, he would help me with my short game, teach me different techniques around the greens. And when I came to the United States and the PGA Tour, Shigeki would also come and work as a TV announcer, and so I got to be with him often. Whenever we would play at Genesis at Riviera, Shigeki would invite us to his home and we'd have a barbecue party. He's been a really important mentor to me through the years.
Q. I just wanted to ask you how much your life has changed back home being the first Japanese man to win a major, how much it changed over the year? And also the status of your back going into Augusta after the WD at the Players.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Yeah, being the first Japanese to win a major, and especially the Masters, has made me really happy. How it's changed my life is a good question. I haven't really figured that out yet. I know I'm a happier person. I've also noticed people have received me differently. It's been a wonderful experience.
If that's changed my life, I don't know. But that's really the one impression that I've had this past year is how warm people have embraced me and received me and cheered me on.
I've been receiving a lot of treatment, getting prepared. Really yesterday was the first day that I've been able to have a good practice session. So the remainder of this wee and next week, I'll do my best to prepare well so I can defend my title at Augusta.
Q. We saw the photos of you in the Atlanta airport last year after you won and you were going back to Japan. I believe you had to quarantine for a while, and maybe the celebration at home was a bit muted, but could you explain what that was like, if you were kept away from your family for a good amount of time? And also if you really did ever get to celebrate properly at home.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Yeah, it was difficult because of the quarantine. I arrived in Japan and immediately for two weeks was under quarantine. But when that finished, I still had a week and was able to celebrate with friends and family. Shigeki Maruyama was one of those that I was able to celebrate with.
Even though it was a little belated, it was still a good celebration.
Q. What did you think of your caddie's bow on the 18th green?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: I didn't see it in person, but I did see it on TV, and I thought it was something very special. I'm glad that Shota did it. It's a sign of respect, not only to the Masters tournament but Augusta National.
It was something that was good. I never really thought it would receive the attention that it has generated.
Q. Were you surprised -- because I had never seen you cry before, were you surprised that you had tears in your eyes as you were walking towards the clubhouse after winning?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Yeah, those tears, it wasn't because I won. Walking up after the 18th green, I saw all my team, and they were all crying, and I think that's probably what started me crying, too.
But it was really cool to be able to share that with my team. The feeling of, we finally did it. That was the reason why those tears were falling down all of our cheeks.
Q. Kind of piggy-backing off the tears and everything that you expressed, the gratitude of winning, how has winning last year and representing again this year just given you even more of a sense of pride as a Japanese golfer, especially given some of the things that Japanese golfers have had to endure, racist nicknames, stuff like that in the past? How much has this given you a sense of pride?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: To answer your question, to be the first to do it was a source of great pride, I guess. But I'm really not the pioneer. There's been so many others that have come before me that have laid the foundation for me to achieve this goal. So it's not just me, but it's all of those that have gone before me that have tried and struggled and put the work in and were great examples to me.
Q. Can you reflect on the pressure you felt in the final round last year, how you handled that pressure, and if there's any shot in particular you remember from the day that was very significant in terms of how it all panned out?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: You know, the pressure, I don't know how well I controlled it. I guess if I won, I was able to control it well. But it was a struggle all day long. I felt that pressure right until the end.
The one shot, maybe the approach shot after 15. I hit it over the green into the lake, and the approach shot from there was probably the shot that I remember most.
Q. I'm curious about your feelings as you come to the Masters this year, playing with a full complement of patrons, with a full complement of news media, and what that's going to be like, what you're looking forward to being able to be there as defending champion with things much more normal as far as that goes. And talk about the Champions Dinner, what you thought of that, and how much you're looking forward to that and that evening, as well.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Of course I'm looking forward to returning to Augusta National as the defending champion. Looking forward to is one way to put it; another one is I really hope I play well. There's some expectations from myself, whether it's pressure or not. But looking forward to and also at the same time trying to prepare the best I can.
The same with the Champions Dinner. I don't speak English very well, and so it's kind of a two-sided coin. I'm looking forward to it, of course, to be with all those great past Masters champions, but at the same time, too, very nervous about the speech I will be giving.
Q. I want to ask you about the earthquake in Japan. Are there thoughts of 11 years ago that cross your mind? And is everyone that you know safe? Another question is how is your swing? It wasn't 100 percent a couple weeks ago. I know you just started to practice yesterday, but do you feel it's going to be okay, and if there's any chance you might still play next week?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Yeah, it's been 11 years from the earthquake that they had in Tohoku, and at that time I wasn't there, also. But this time when the news came in of the earthquake last week, I think it was, my first thought was the tsunami, and is it going to be as damaging as it was 11 years ago. I was quite worried.
But I got on the phone right away, started calling all my family, my friends, and when everyone told me everybody was okay, I felt very relieved and glad that those close to me were safe.
My recovery is moving forward. Each day it gets better. Probably at 80 percent right now. Planning to practice hard this week and I'm intending to play in the Valero Texas Open as long as the pain keeps subsiding.
Q. In the practice that you have been able to do, how sharp is the game, knowing that you played so well at the start of the season?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Yeah, you're right. I haven't been able to practice as much as I'd like, but what I have been doing, I feel like I'm on the right track. Hopefully I can find that same form that I started the year out with.
Going to the Masters is something very special for me and something I've really been looking forward to, so I'm going to do my very best to be as prepared as I can to defend my title there.
THE MODERATOR: Hideki, one final question before we leave. It's our understanding that you've been putting the final touches on your Champions Dinner menu. Can you share the details of what you'll be serving that evening?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Yeah, I'm still working on the final touches, and so I'm going to be waiting a little bit longer before I make that announcement.
THE MODERATOR: We'll all be surprised once that comes out. Thank you all very much. Thank you, Hideki, for your time today. We look forward to seeing many of you at Augusta National in just under two weeks.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports