April 5, 2022
Augusta, Georgia, USA
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everybody. Welcome back to the press room. Hideki, welcome back as our champion to Augusta National. My congratulations on a great year. The win at ZOZO in Japan and then the Sony, both of which have happened since then, are memorable victories with tremendous finishing holes. Well done.
I guess the first question I want to put to you before we turn it over to everyone else is to reflect on coming back here after a year from being our champion. How is it?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: It's been a great year. It's great to be back here at Augusta. I feel very proud and honored to be here as the defending champion. It's been a great year with wins at ZOZO and Sony.
Last couple of weeks, though, have been a struggle. Hopefully I can find my game and be a worthy defending champion.
Q. How exactly did you hurt yourself? And how would you describe how you're feeling and how you think you'll perform this week?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: The injury occurred at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the second round on Friday. Since then it's been a struggle. I had a lot of treatment last week, though, at Valero Texas Open. Monday and Tuesday, I was pain free, feeling really good. Then woke up Wednesday morning, and the neck was stiff again.
But I've had, again, a lot of treatment the last couple of days. I just came from the practice range and really felt good. It's probably the best I felt in a long time. So I'm looking forward to Thursday, and hopefully I'll be 100 percent by then.
Q. What area of the neck? Which side?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Left side.
Q. Early batch of Chinese players, they learned from Japan. That was like 35 years ago. At that time when I learned golf, there was a saying called Japan style and U.S. style. Currently most, as far as I understand, a lot of Korean players, they learn from the U.S., but we don't see that many players from Japan in the United States. Do you think there's a distinctive golf style and school in Japan which is so different from the U.S. style that makes you the Masters champion?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: To answer your question simply, golf is golf. It doesn't matter what country you played in. What it comes down to is just getting it in the hole. So I don't think there's a big difference in the style between Japan and the United States.
Q. Just curious your thoughts on the changes to 11 and how your shot out of that right trees from last year would have compared if it looked the way it does now.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: There's a big change at 11. The tee shot, the tee ground is moved back and to the left. There's still a lot of room on the right. It's a lot longer, though. Whether or not that will affect how I played it last year, we'll wait to see.
Q. Hideki, aside from the injuries, how do you feel about your game as you begin defense? Also, if you could talk about your Champions Dinner menu selections.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: As far as golf, besides the injury, I haven't really been able to hit a full shot, a hundred percent full shot in a long time, so that's still a question. But I feel like the treatment I've been receiving is helping. I'm on the road to full recovery. I still have today and tomorrow, and I think by Thursday I'll be ready to play my best hopefully.
I'm really looking forward to the Champions Dinner tonight. The language barrier is still a struggle, but he's going to do his best. The menu is -- Regina and everyone from Augusta National is going to help make that announcement later on.
Q. What were the highlights of the past year for you? Especially like meeting the Prime Minister in Japan or your reception at various places. You will be remembered from now on as a Masters champion. Please let us know the specific moments that were special to you. Thank you.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Probably the highlight has been every week in the first round to be on the 1st tee and be announced as the reigning Masters champion. That was a highlight that I was able to relive almost every week that I played.
Then last week in Texas it was a little sad because I knew that was going to be the last time that I was going to be announced as the defending Masters champion. So it kind of made me feel, hey, I need to go out and win it again so I can continue that highlight.
Q. I have a question because you played with two other Japanese players yesterday for a practice round, Keita and Takumi. Both of them look up to you, and they think you're the inspiration to them and they want to follow your footsteps. What do you feel about that, and what do you think winning at the Masters means to Japanese golf?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: It was a real pleasure to play with Kanaya and Nakajima yesterday. All three of us have kind of taken the same pathway here to Augusta National by winning the Asian Pacific Amateur. If I can be an inspiration to them, it makes me very happy. Hopefully last year's Masters win will help inspire and encourage a lot of young people in Japan to take up golf and follow in my footsteps.
Q. Almost similar question towards my last, but I wanted to know, now I've had a lot of interaction with Takumi and Keita in the last couple of years, and they look at you as the senpai they aspire to become. I just want to know what did they talk to you about? What was the kind of things that they wanted to know when they played the nine holes with you yesterday?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: I thought they were going to ask me a lot of different questions, but it seemed like I was the one instigating the conversations. I don't know if they were bashful or what, but I was hoping to be able to talk more with them.
Q. Just a simple question. When you were growing up, who was your favorite golfer? Was there someone who was your idol or hero?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Tiger.
Q. Hideki, can I take you back to 18 on Sunday. Was there anything different about your mindset knowing it's not won until you win, of course, but when you're walking up 18, that win is probably different for everybody. What was that moment like for you? Was it a struggle just to try to finish the hole and not let your mind drift ahead to what was going to happen in a couple of minutes there when you got the jacket? And this became real. Thank you.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Yeah, walking up 18, I had just hit my second shot into the bunker on the right, and that's all I was thinking about is getting it out, getting it out from that bunker. That's all I was really thinking about. Not winning or anything, just making a good bunker shot.
Q. Masters patrons are probably the warmest gallery in all of golf. Do you feel being the Masters champion, do you feel a great difference between your past appearance and this when you walk around the course?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Yeah, most definitely. This year during the practice rounds on every hole when I stand on the tee box, people have welcomed me warmly and cheered me on, and it's a wonderful feeling.
Q. Hideki, in the last year how many times have you worn the green jacket? What was the biggest reaction to it? And did you ever have to take it to the dry cleaners?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: As far as the last question about the dry cleaning, I thought about it and it needed to be cleaned, but I just was so worried that something might happen to it.
So I didn't want to let it out of my sight.
I just spent a year looking at it. I haven't really worn it that much, but I look at it a lot. And now I wish I would have worn it more (Laughter).
Q. Hideki, we saw your emotional outpouring on the 18th last year. You almost show no emotion whether you win or you don't, but there have been frustrating times over the last few months with injuries, lack of form, whatever you call it. How do you deal with that? Do you ever show emotion outside?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: You know, you're right. I don't show a lot of emotion on the course unless I make a long putt or chip in, but those are few and far between, so people don't really get to see my emotions on the course.
But when I make a long putt or chip, I'm very emotional and give it the guts pose. In Japanese, that's what we call it, the guts pose, like Tiger. Again, I don't do that very often, so people don't get to see that from me very often.
Q. As far as the Masters, just wondering what role the win had in those later victories? Did it give you confidence after a couple of years of not winning, or was that something that changed in your game that resulted in three wins over the last 12 months as a result of winning in the states?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: Yes, the confidence level was greatly increased with the win last year, and that helped me throughout the year. I'm sure it had a big effect on my play the rest of that year and at Sony this year. Hopefully, that boost in confidence will continue.
Q. I remember like over a decade ago when you faced the media, you failed to have any long answers and usually finished with one word. It's also including all the years at the Masters. But now when we see you, you're actually very happy to share all the personal information or even like give some jokes. So what has changed for you? Or did the winning at the Masters actually give you more confidence so make you more lighter?
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA: I don't think I've changed that much, but if you say my answers were short, but I really don't remember them being that short.
THE MODERATOR: Hideki, thank you for being here. We appreciate it very much. On behalf of all of us here at Augusta National, we wish you every success this week. Maybe a second green jacket, then you can send the first one to the cleaners. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports