SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Hideki Matsuyama enters this week as one of the favorites at the Waste Management Phoenix Open - he should considering he's the defending champion. But it's something besides his record here, which also includes a T-4 in 2014 and a T-2 in 2015, that has him excited to be back.
"I'm not really sure whether it's the course, but I do know the tremendous galleries that we have here just invigorates me and gets me going," he said through an interpreter on Tuesday at TPC Scottsdale. "I love playing here."
The 24-year-old from Japan started to live up to his potential last year, parlaying the early victory in Phoenix into two Japan Tour wins, a WGC-HSBC Champions win and a Hero World Challenge title before the beginning of 2017.
While his momentum has slowed, slightly, in the new year - he finished second to Justin Thomas at the SBS Tournament of Champions in Hawaii, but then finished out of the top 25 at the Sony and Torrey Pines - his expectations remain sky-high. He's already preparing for the Masters.
"Like everyone else, yeah, that's my first major of the year, and that's one of my goals," he said. "The preparation has begun already, to be able to compete there."
After that? He wants to win the Presidents Cup back from a U.S. team that has historically dominated the event.
"It's still a ways off, but hopefully I will qualify for the team," he said. "I'm looking at our teammates, too, what type of team the International team is going to be. We haven't won in a while, so I am looking forward to that and being able to gel with my teammates and put up a good fight against the U.S. team."
If he can keep up the hot play, he may just get his wish, and this Phoenix crowd may not be the only raucous one he can feed off this year.