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January 3, 2017

Hideki Matsuyama

Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii

JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Hideki Matsuyama to the SBS Tournament of Champions. He's making his second start at this event.

Hideki, if we can, first of all, just get your thoughts on being back at Kapalua.

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: I'm very happy to be back. Especially to be able to win on the PGA TOUR to qualify me to be able to play here. I missed last year's tournament here. It's good to be back.

JOHN BUSH: You closed the season, November and December, so strong. Talk a little about what you've done the last few weeks.

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: I had a couple of weeks off, and they were off. I didn't have to do much in Japan. But I knew I had to play this event, so I was a little bit concerned about my game. So it's good to be back and to be able to play golf again.

Q. Some have called you the hottest player in the world in the moment. Would you consider chasing down Jason Day's world No. 1 ranking this year as a goal for yourself?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Becoming No. 1 in the world is the goal I think of all of us out here. I still have some weak links in my game that I have to work on, but hopefully little by little, I'll be able to improve and to fix what I need to, and hopefully some day compete for No. 1.

Q. (Do you know what you need to do to catch him)?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Well, as you know, Jason, he hits it long and he just has just a wonderful short game. I don't even come as close to hitting as long as he does. So that's one of the areas that I really need to work on, and hopefully I can do that.

Q. The way you finished last year, do you get a sense that expectations are strong this year?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: The expectations of people around me are high. I don't really worry too much about that. Hopefully not put too much pressure on myself. But I know that other people expect a lot of me, and so all I can do is just try my best.

Q. Based on that, when do you think is the first time that you felt that people were expecting you to do well; that you could sense that almost?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: I probably felt it in the past. I can't give you an exact date. But do I remember when I did feel it, I thought, I've got to just be my own guy. I just have to play my own game and not try to live up to anybody else's expectations except myself.

Q. What were you wanting to do the first time you played Augusta after winning the Asia-Pacific? What was your goal?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: First time at Augusta National, I was just hoping to be able to play four days. In reality, I just didn't want to embarrass myself in two days (laughing).

Q. This is an interesting event in that there is less pressure given everyone has already won, they have all got status, that sort of thing. But does that give people a sense of freedom? I know you have this most weeks, but do you feel like it's almost a free week to let it all out?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: You're exactly right. It feels like a free week. My intentions, though, were to work hard on the three weeks prior in Japan and work on my game. But one thing led to another and I wasn't able to practice as much as I wanted to.

But still, this week, there's no cut, and so I know I'm going to play four days. So in that respect, it is like a less pressure, free week for me to be able to get back into form.

Q. If I can follow with one, we know you would like to be No. 1 and we know you would like to win a major, but in 2017, what is the minimum you hope to achieve this season?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: You're correct; that to win a major is one of my goals. But least of my goals, probably is still win on the PGA TOUR, and I'm going to do everything I can to achieve that.

Q. What's the No. 1 thing you accomplished last year?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: To win the HSBC was probably my biggest achievement. I didn't know it while I was playing, but I was the first Asian to win that event, and so to me, that was a big deal.

Q. When you made the putt in Phoenix, I think on the 18th and the playoff, I want to say, to keep it going, what enabled you to make that putt? Your technique, or will?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: You know, I knew I had to make it or we were going to go home. So in that respect, maybe it was the desire, because this was do-or-die. And as I think back, I don't even -- I wasn't even thinking of technique I think at the time. I just knew I had to make it.

Q. There are apparently 20 journalists from Japan who travelled down to watch you. How much has your star risen in Japan over the past 12 or 24 months, and how have you found the extra attention?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: I'm happy they are here. They are doing their job. So in that respect, I'm happy. But in other ways, too, sometimes it's good if not too many come, if that makes sense.

Basically to answer your question, I'm happy, of course, they are here, and hopefully that helps build golf in Japan. When I go back to Japan, more people recognize me, and it makes it a little more difficult to go out for meals and things.

And even in America, I've noticed people, when I go out to dinner, I don't speak a lot of English, and so we don't get into a conversation, but I think some of them, they recognize me. It's a good feeling, yeah.

Q. Just on that, if you did win the Masters or a major, what do you expect the response would be back home?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: I mean, if I was fortunate enough to win a major, I know in Japan, it would be big news, and hopefully it would help promote golf in Japan and it would be a good thing.

In America, I don't know. Again, I don't speak a lot of English, so I don't know how the rest of the world would react if I did win a major. Hopefully it would be in a good way.

Q. From the time you left the Bahamas, what was the most fun thing you did?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Probably drinking sake (laughter).

Q. How much?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: I had my share. It wasn't just a little. Yeah, we did party pretty good.

Q. What else did you enjoy?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Playing golf with my father -- (laughter).

Q. (What's his handicap?)
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: My father, when he played a lot, he was probably a plus two. We hadn't played for probably ten years together. My father hadn't even played golf for probably a year. So this past off-season, we were able to play. It was special.

Q. Alabama or Clemson?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: You know, I don't follow those guys. I hear Alabama a lot, so I just go with Alabama.

JOHN BUSH: Thank you very much.

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