SHANGHAI – World No. 4 Hideki Matsuyama said Wednesday he had to think twice but gratefully accepted a surprise request to play golf with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Donald Trump next month.
Speaking to reporters in Shanghai a day before the WGC-HSBC Champions gets under way at the Sheshan International Golf Club, Matsuyama said he felt undeserving when first contacted but decided it would be a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity he should not miss.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d be good enough,” Matsuyama said. “But I hope to have fun so that it will be engraved in my memory. I’ll do my best not to lose (against Trump).”
Trump will be visiting Japan from Nov. 5-7 as part of a five-nation Asia tour, with the joint outing with Matsuyama scheduled for Nov. 5 at the Kasumigaki Country Club in Kawagoe near Tokyo.
Earlier this year, the venue, which will be used for golf at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, came under scrutiny for not endorsing gender equality, as it did not allow female members to join the private club and also banned them from playing at the course on Sundays.
But in March, following calls by the International Olympic Committee, the club’s executive board decided it will change its rules to allow women to become full members.
When Abe visited the United States in February, he had a golf outing with Trump and was joined by four-time major champion Ernie Els of South Africa for a round at the Trump National Golf Club in Florida.
Matsuyama is currently in Shanghai looking to defend the title he won last year, when he became the first Japanese to win on the WGC series with an emphatic seven-stroke victory.
“I am back here after a year and am really excited,” Matsuyama said. “I want to play well again and I am determined to win.”
Matsuyama will play the first two rounds in a strong group that includes American world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and fifth-ranked Spaniard John Rahm.
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