KAWAGOE, Japan (AP) — No fans. Barely any media, either. But yes, that was Hideki Matsuyama strolling down the fairways for an Olympic practice round Sunday that barely anyone noticed.
The Masters champion played the front nine at Kasumigaseki Country Club, then hit the driving range for more than an hour as he prepares for the tournament, which starts Thursday.
Matsuyama became the first Japanese player to win a major earlier this year when he captured the Masters. For a player closely tracked by Japanese media under normal circumstances, this practice session was eerily quiet.
Four photographers and a few other reporters and Olympic officials followed the 29-year-old, six-time winner on the PGA Tour for the two-hour nine-holer. A group of volunteers stood quietly and took pictures as he left the ninth green and headed to the driving range.
Along with Naomi Osaka, he is among Japan’s biggest Olympic stars, and the win at Augusta has only increased anticipation for his run at a gold medal in his home country.
He has not been seen much since pulling out of the British Open after testing positive for the coronavirus at a tournament in Detroit the week before. When he withdrew, he said he’d been feeling fine but hadn’t been able to properly prepare. He was also concerned with difficult travel restrictions in and out of Britain.
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