PACIFIC PALISADES, United States: Japan’s world No.5 Hideki Matsuyama is still hoping a sexism row won’t spell the end of Kasumigaseki Country Club as venue for the 2020 Olympic golf competition.
Matsuyama didn’t wade into the thorny debate sparked when Tokyo’s female governor, Yuriko Koike, said she felt “uncomfortable” with the idea that women couldn’t become full members of the club—a fact that has also sparked concerns from the International Olympic Committee.
Amid calls to move the Olympic tournament, Matsuyama merely said he hoped that wouldn’t prove necessary.
“There are some membership questions right now, but I played well there at Kasumigaseki, won Japan Junior there, Asian Amateur,” Matsuyama said Tuesday as he prepared for Thursday’s start of the US PGA Tour Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club.
“When I won there, that’s kind of what made it all possible, why I’m sitting here today,” he said. “So I hope they get things worked out and I hope Kasumigaseki will be the site of the Tokyo Olympic golf competition.”
Matsuyama will tee it up Thursday with a chance to rise from fifth in the world rankings to number one. He’d need a victory, and even then it would depend on where current world number one Jason Day finishes.
He’ll be playing for the first time since retaining his Phoenix Open title a fortnight ago with a playoff victory over former US Open champion Webb Simpson.
It was Matsuyama’s fifth victory in his last nine starts worldwide, a stretch that included his triumph in the prestigious World Golf Championships HSBC Champions at Shanghai in October.
“He’s been playing tremendous,” Day said of the 24-year-old from Japan. “He’s one of those guys that goes under the radar, no one really thinks about Hideki too much and then he’s always there.”
Matsuyama said that kind of comment only fueled his determination to improve.
“To have a player like Jason Day say that I might be underrated is a great compliment and an honor,” he said. “But also to be able to live up to that expectation and to try to get better is a motivating factor for me.”
Another motivator is the prospect of gaining the world number one ranking, although Matsuyama wasn’t getting ahead of himself there.
“I did know that that is a possibility and I can’t control what Jason does this week,” he said. “All I can do is go out and try my best and hopefully things will fall into place.
“It’s always been one of my goals and it would be a great goal to be able to achieve. But whether it happens this week or next or sometime in the future, I’ll just keep working hard and hopefully that will happen.”