Matsuyama will do his talking on the greens

Japan's Hideki Matsuyama sharing a light moment with South African Charl Schwartzel at the Liberty National Golf Course ahead of this year's Presidents Cup.
Japan's Hideki Matsuyama sharing a light moment with South African Charl Schwartzel at the Liberty National Golf Course ahead of this year's Presidents Cup.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Hideki Matsuyama's English is still not great, but when it comes to communicating with his International Presidents Cup team-mates, he hopes winning translates into any language.

The 25-year-old Japanese is the highest-ranked player on the International team at No. 3 in the world. He will be teeing up in his third Presidents Cup when the Internationals take on the United States in the biennial matchplay competition, which the Americans have dominated with nine wins in 11 editions to one for the Internationals and one draw.

Despite the language barrier, International team captain Nick Price said Matsuyama's experience has made him a valuable contributor in the team room as well as on the course.

"He's certainly come out of his shell," Price said. "He takes a ribbing from all of us. He really can take a joke and he can dish it out, too. He doesn't say (a) whole lot, but when he does, it's very funny."

Matsuyama said: "It's been what, four years since my first Presidents Cup. I still haven't learnt enough English to communicate well with my team-mates, but I can communicate. They're my team-mates, my brothers. I'm looking forward to winning the Cup with them this year."

Price is confident Matsuyama can shake off any late-season fatigue as the Internationals vie to claim the Cup for just the second time.

"Obviously he's pretty tired," the Zimbabwean said. "He started playing great at the end of last year, so it's been an 11-month, 10-month stretch."

Price noted that Matsuyama produced five birdies on the back nine at East Lake in Atlanta on Sunday as he closed out the Tour Championship, a sign that the Japanese star has plenty left in the tank.

"He finished with a flourish on Sunday," Price said "So I think he was looking forward to this week. I think this was a lot of pressure on him to perform in the FedEx Cup and his game wasn't maybe quite where he wanted it. But I have no reservation. He's one of those guys that's going to rise to the occasion."

Matsuyama went into the PGA Tour's season-ending FedEx Cup series atop the play-off standings, but missed the cut at the Northern Trust, tied for 23rd at the Dell Championship, finished 47th at the BMW Championship and was 26th at the Tour Championship.

In two previous Presidents Cup appearances, in 2013 and 2015, Matsuyama has compiled a record of three wins, four defeats and two halved matches.

Although he is enjoying the team experience, he said it did not offer any respite from the pressures of individual play.

"Actually, playing in individual events is much less pressure, because I want to do well for my team-mates," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2017, with the headline 'Matsuyama will do his talking on the greens'. Print Edition | Subscribe