Los Angeles - A sizzling finish to 2016 has Hideki Matsuyama
focused more than ever on his golfing goals this year, among them a major title
and perhaps the world number one ranking.
"Becoming number one in the world is the goal I think
of all of us out here," Matsuyama told reporters this week as he prepared
to tee it up on Thursday in the USPGA Tour Tournament of Champions at Kapalua,
"I still have some weak links in my game that I have to
work on, but hopefully little by little, I'll be able to improve and to fix
what I need to, and hopefully someday compete for number one."
Not many weaknesses have been apparent in Matsuyama's game
Since late October he has won four of five starts - with
one runner-up finish as well.
The world number six player's bid to rise will be one of the
chief storylines of a 2017 in which the return from injury of Tiger Woods and
Australian Jason Day's bid to stay atop the world rankings will also be in the
After a fifth-placed finish at the US PGA Tour Championship,
Matsuyama won the Japan Open and the World Golf Championships HSBC Champions in
October, the Taiheiyo Masters in November and the Tiger Woods-hosted Hero World
Challenge in the first week of December.
He also squeezed in a second place finish at the CIMB
It was a sensational end to a 2016 that started with a
victory in the USPGA Tour Phoenix Open and included a tie for seventh at the
Masters and a fourth-placed finish at the PGA Championship.
"The expectations of people around me are high,"
he said. "I don't really worry too much about that. Hopefully not put too
much pressure on myself. But I know that other people expect a lot of me, and
so all I can do is just try my best."
He says there are still things in his game he wants to
"Well, as you know, Jason (Day), he hits it long and he
just has a wonderful short game," Matsuyama said. "I don't even come
as close to hitting as long as he does. So that's one of the areas that I
really need to work on, and hopefully I can do that."
But mostly, Matsuyama said, he's got to stay true to the
skills that have brought him this far, the skills that have prompted Jordan
Spieth and Woods to predict that Matsuyama will be among the game's elite for
years to come.
"I've got to just be my own guy," Matsuyama said.
"I just have to play my own game and not try to live up to anybody else's
expectations except myself."