KAWAGOE, Japan – Last week, Nasa Hataoka played a nine-hole practice round with Hideki Matsuyama at Kasumigaseki Country Club. The round included the predictable small talk along with a few shared bits of course information, but what wasn’t discussed was the unique pressure the members of Team Japan face this week.
While there’s a great deal of pride among the Japanese players to compete in an Olympics at home there’s also heightened expectations, particularly for Matsuyama, who was poised to complete a dream season following his victory in April at the Masters with a medal-winning performance in Tokyo.
But Matsuyama’s quest ended on the first extra hole of a 7-for-1 bronze medal playoff, following a final-round 69 that included two bogeys over his last six holes.
“He mentioned that because he couldn't win the medal on the guys' side, he sent me a good luck message on the girls' side,” Mone Inami said.
Like the rest of Japan, Hataoka and Inami watched Sunday’s finish with mixed emotions.
“It was extremely inspiring to watch him trying to go get the medal until the last second,” Hataoka said. “So, we will try to win the medal on the girls' side.”