News & ToursAugust 13, 2015

What do PGA players think of Hideki Matsuyama? Glad you asked

HAVEN, Wis. -- Media interviews can be awkward affairs for players and reporters alike. Instead of a free-following conversation, the dialogue is often stop-and-go, as writers' inquiries are framed to cater to their own agendas rather than an overall theme of the press conference:

"Phil, what do you think of the Chargers' chances this NFL season?"

"Dustin, have you tried any of the local kielbasa?"

"If you had to sum up the career of Ben Hogan, how would you do so, Jordan?"

Which brings us to Hideki Matsuyama.

Understandably so, the Japanese media wants to cover a rising star hailing from the home country. And Matsuyama, at 23 years old, certainly fits that description, entering Whistling Straits as the No. 15 ranked player in the world.

Still, some of the Matsuyama questions at this week's press conferences were, um, out of left field. To the players' credit, they tried to answer such probes in good faith, but as you can tell, these Matsuyama probes caught them off-guard:

(To Rickie Fowler) You're a quarter Japanese. Do you feel any samurai spirit from Hideki?

"I feel like we've gotten to know each other a bit more over the past couple of years, and we have a lot of fun playing together. There's a little bit of a connection, since I'm a quarter Japanese, and it would be fun to sometime in the future get to play in Japan together, play against each other, maybe, and we're going to be playing against each other for a long time."

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(To Tiger Woods) I saw a report that Hideki Matsuyama got to say hi to you yesterday, and he really looks up to you and he's stoked about it. I was wondering, in your opinion, what makes him rank so high in top picks, and also what does he need to improve to win a major?

"He won Memorial. He's had a lot of success already. He's a very strong guy. He's really strong. And he can drive the ball really well. A very consistent putter day in and day out. It's just a matter -- he's so young, just give him time.

(To Jordan Spieth) When you were amateur, Hideki Matsuyama ranked first on World Ranking and you two were rivals, but you won the Masters first. What is your impression of him and what do you think is the chance of winning a Major for him?

"Hideki is a great player, he's a super nice guy, he and Shindo are very nice people. I've played a lot of golf with him. I think it's just a matter of time. His game is certainly Major Championship ready."

(To Jason Day) You have been placing second in Masters and U.S. Opens multiple times and Hideki Matsuyama of Japan has placed in fifth in Masters and he's also trying to win a Major. What do you think are his best strengths?

"Hideki is a fantastic ball-striker. I've got to know him very well over the last few years and we have become very close friends. We trade texted messages every now and then. And he's just a wonderful person to be around with."

(Back to Rickie) Yesterday the PGA issued a who's favored to win and you ranked fifth. Hideki Matsuyama ranked in ninth. As a rival in the same generation, what is your impression of Hideki?

"I've gotten to play with Hideki a few times. And he's a great player. He's a very good ball-striker, very consistent ball-striker, he doesn't hit the ball off line very much."

You get the picture.

By Wednesday, the Matsuyama interrogations garnered their share of eye rolls from some in the media center. However, after an opening-nine 32, Hideki is near the top of the leader board in early PGA Championship action, sending hordes of reporters scrambling through past transcripts to dig up any and all Matsuyama info they could.

Turns out those pro-Hideki reporters weren't jingoistic. They were merely sagacious.

Follow @JoelMBeall


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