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January 30, 2018

Hideki Matsuyama

Scottsdale, Arizona

EMILY TILLO: Like to welcome Hideki Matsuyama into the interview room here at the Waste Management Phoenix. 2016 and 2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open champ. Both times you won on the fourth playoff hole. So with the way things are trending on the PGA TOUR lately, we could have another playoff this weekend. But just talk about what it means to be a two-time, back-to-back defending champ and what it would mean to get your third in a row victory this week.

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: It's great to be back in Phoenix, Scottsdale again after a year. I love it here. Being able to win twice the last two years have been really memorable for me and quite an honor. I'm going to do my best this year to three-peat and if I was fortunate enough to do that, I think I would join the King, Arnold Palmer, as the only three-peat winner. That would be something.

EMILY TILLO: You're playing with Rickie and Webb tomorrow. So talk about what that's going to be like, obviously you have experienced battling them head-to-head the past two years.

HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: I'm looking forward to playing with both Rickie and Webb. It's going to kind of be weird to play with them on Thursday and Friday but hopefully we can all play together and play well to be there together on the back nine on Sunday.

EMILY TILLO: Great, with that we'll open it up for some questions.

Q. The Farmers was quite a difficult course, was very difficult, Torrey Pines. You had one of the best rounds of the day on the last day, you shot 69. Where is your game right now as opposed to one year ago?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: It's hard to compare a year ago where I was, where my game was. I haven't really played well this year up until the last day there at Torrey Pines. My short game is getting a lot better and coming to Phoenix it seems like something always good happens, so hopefully I'll do my best and see where it goes.

Q. I write about the mental side of the game and I'm curious about how you came to such a pronounced pause at the top of your swing.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: That's a great question. I wish I knew. I really don't know how that pause got into my swing. I do know that the pause has gotten a lot shorter than it was during my first Masters when I played in Augusta for the first time. I think I was a little bit longer pause then. But, yeah, I wish I knew.

Q. So how do you time it up? By just practice and practice and practice? What's your first move down from the top?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Again, it's just, I don't even know I pause, so it's hard for me to say, okay, what am I thinking at the top or what's my first swing thought in the transition. I guess as far as timing is concerned, I try to be as slow as I can at the top.

Q. Last year you won here, you won Bridgestone. 62 at Bridgestone? Beat Justin Thomas in singles at the Presidents Cup. Which one of those was your absolute best performance and have you reached your ultimate potential yet?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Scoring-wise I think Bridgestone and the Presidents Cup was probably my best score-making rounds of the year. But as far as me personally, winning for the second time here in Phoenix, for me personally that would probably be my best golf.

Q. And has he reached his absolute potential?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: That's a good question, too. Sometimes our results don't really signify how well we played. With that in mind all I can -- I know there's going to be misses out there and I'm going to make mistakes, but I think I still have a lot of work to do and there's still room for me to improve a lot. So as far as your question, have I reached my potential, hopefully not.

Q. Putting?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: It's going better. Especially last week. I don't know if you saw the stats, but my strokes gained putting was the best it's ever been at Torrey Pines. So I was very proud of that and hopefully I can keep putting well.

Q. How about the fact that you are now married, you have a baby, how has that changed your life and the way that you play when you come to the course?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: It really hasn't changed my life here in the United States yet, because my wife and baby are still back in Japan. My baby is still very young and we haven't traveled yet. So as far as my golf is concerned, it hasn't really changed, because I'm able to focus on what I need to do while I'm on the golf course and here in the States. That may change in the near future, but we'll wait and see.

Q. So when do you expect mom and your daughter to start traveling?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: We haven't really set a timetable yet, but we have a place in Florida and so hopefully, again, in the near future, they will be able to come over and we'll be able to spend time together.

Q. Is there anything else we should know about your personal life? We have to ask. Any changes?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Naw, just the same. Thanks for asking though.

Q. How old were you when you became aware of who Arnold Palmer was, how did you become aware of who Arnold Palmer is, and if you could talk a little bit more of what it would mean to join Arnold as the only three-time winner.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: I don't remember how old I was, but I do remember I was in Japan and he was the King and was there and all the great things that Mr. Palmer did for the game is where I learned first about him, reading golf books, magazines, things like that. What it would mean to me to join him as a three-time consecutive winner? It would be a dream come true. Just unbelievable. It would show me that the work I put in has paid off.

Q. So many golfers are inspired by the patience in your swing, that pause at the top. But you've also said that it's getting shorter and I'm wondering, have you accepted the fact that that's your swing or are you still working on your swing?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: I change my swing every year. There's always something that we make adjustments and so my swing will not stay the same. However, the pause at the top, like you said before, it's timing and it has to do with timing, the transition, gathering myself, that probably won't change.

Q. In 2018 you have Hideki, you have Spieth here, you have Jon Rahm here, Thomas here. I think Rory starts at Pebble Beach next week. You had Tiger Woods last week. Do you get excited as a fan of the game with what a great season 2018 looks like it might be? And I forgot Jason Day just won again.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: You know, as a fan, I mean it's great to have Tiger back and especially him playing so well. To be able to play with him last week, what a thrill that was. But as a fan, Tiger's come back, Rory has played well of late in Europe, and Jason winning last week, after a couple of years, it's going to be a great season. But on the same, in the same breath as a golfer now, not as a fan, I don't want to lose to those guys and so it's kind of a Catch-22. As a fan I love them and that they're playing well and they're back and the game is growing. On the other hand, it just makes me work harder, because I know I have to play well to keep up with them.

EMILY TILLO: All right, thank you, Hideki. Appreciate it. Good luck this week.


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