KAWAGOE, Japan – For a player who famously guards his privacy, the Olympics were always going to be a unique challenge for Hideki Matsuyama, who has endured the weight of a golf-crazed nation this week.
A first-round 69 did nothing to change his attitude or his expectations. Even after an eventful round at Kasumigaseki Country Club, he seemed to be at ease with his plight as a national icon.
“If I say there's no pressure I'll be lying, so hopefully I'll be able to embrace the pressure and that's upon me and just try to put together a nice tournament here,” he said.
It probably didn’t help that Thursday was Matsuyama’s first competitive round since the first round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic on July 1. That was the day before he tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to miss The Open, as well as last week’s 3M Open, in order to quarantine in time for the Olympics.
“It was very difficult,” said Matsuyama, who was six strokes off the lead held by Sepp Straka. “Probably toward the end a little bit of a mental slide and focus kind of faded away from me, so that's something that I need to put together for the rest of the week.”