Returning to his native Japan for competitive golf for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics in August, Hideki Matsuyama provided an honest assessment of his recent form Wednesday ahead of the Zozo Championship.
"I have jet lag a bit and, to be honest, my game is not in a good shape," Matsuyamasaid, "but I am competing in my home country so I hope I can spend a quality time in limited days to bring my good game."
Matsuyama is one of 78 players in the limited-field event as the PGA Tour returns to Asia for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. "Asian Swing" tournaments in 2020 were either canceled or relocated, as was this season's CJ Cup.
"Before the COVID (pandemic), we had tournaments in Korea, Japan, China and Malaysia," Matsuyama said. "If there is a tournament somewhere in Asia, because of a little time difference many viewers can reach us, which is beneficial. I am not sure what will happen next year but if the Tour comes back to Asia, I will be happier."
Matsuyama wasn't being humble about the state of his game. The defending Masters champion has only managed one top-five finish in official Tour events ever since. He's 3-for-3 in made cuts in the early stages of the 2021-22 season, but a T6 at the season-opening Fortinet Championship was his only finish in the top 50.
Regardless, Matsuyama is Japan's first male major champion and one of its biggest golfing stars, making him a marquee name for this week's tournament at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club in the suburbs of Tokyo.
"It has been two years since I played here last time so I am definitely excited to be here," Matsuyama said. "I was in Japan for the Olympic Games but there were no spectators, which was a bummer. But we will have some spectators here and are able to play in front of them. I am hoping to see them on the course and show my good game for them. If I play well, I may have a chance."
Matsuyama finished in a tie for fourth at the Olympics, coming up just short of the podium. In a wink to those results, the Tour paired Matsuyama for the first two rounds with Xander Schauffele and Chinese Taipei's C.T. Pan -- who won Olympic gold and bronze, respectively.
In assessing his own game, Matsuyama pulled no punches, keeping expectations for the week low.
"Overall, I was not consistent," he said. "Again, I was not consistent at two events in Las Vegas so hopefully playing well this week could be my momentum to get going. Ball-striking, putting, chipping, all of these have not reached the level I want.
"If my game scored 10 out of 10 at the Masters, now I would say it scores less than 1. I will be struggling this week but I am here in Japan so I am motivated to be in contention."
--Field Level Media