Matsuyama seeking Japanese glory
In the last 18 months Hideki Matsuyama has repeatedly proved his class, but he is desperate to go one stage further and become Japan's first Major championship winner.
The 25-year-old from Ehime Prefecture has been a Major-winner-in-waiting since he chalked up three top 20s, including T10th in the US Open and T6th in the Open, in 2013.
But when he claimed five wins in nine starts at the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017, expectations grew that he was ready to become Asia's first golfing superstar.
Perhaps most impressively, in the middle of that run, he won the World Golf Championship HSBC Champions by no less than seven strokes, and yet he has claimed only one win since.
However, that victory was another WGC title and another in which he dominated a superb field, this time a five-shot victory in the Bridgestone Invitational.
Nonetheless, he exited the 2017 season rueing his inability to turn Major potential into wins. He finished in the top 15 in all four, with second in the US Open and fifth in the PGA Championship highlights, and perhaps the burden is proving hard to bear.
"There is pressure for sure," he admitted ahead of The Open at Royal Birkdale. "But I believe I have learned how to deal with the pressure. I feel that there is no way to get away from pressure so I try to focus on what I can control.
"Winning a major is on my list of goals. I feel good and inspired by the support I get from Japan rather than feeling additional pressure. I want to make the Japanese golf fans proud.
"I have learned how to handle all the emotions that come with the pressure of competing. Now I channel the fire in a positive way."
Matsuyama has finished T11th or better in each of the last three Masters and is 17.00 to win at Augusta National in 2018.
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