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Matsuyama, McIlroy yearn to play in Olympics, but concerns remain

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan looks on during a practice round prior to the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Resort's Ocean Course on May 18, 2021. (AFP)
Hideki Matsuyama of Japan looks on during a practice round prior to the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Resort's Ocean Course on May 18, 2021. (AFP)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks on during a practice round prior to the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Resort's Ocean Course on May 18, 2021. (AFP)
Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks on during a practice round prior to the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Resort's Ocean Course on May 18, 2021. (AFP)
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20 May 2021 12:05:13 GMT9
20 May 2021 12:05:13 GMT9

Clareto Monsorate

Japan’s reigning Masters golf champion Hideki Matsuyama is yearning to play in the Tokyo Olympics, but with the Games approaching and his homeland struggling to tackle the deadly coronavirus, he says he can empathize with his people who want the Games called off.

The 29-year-old had to put his green jacket victory celebrations on hold after returning to Japan from Augusta.

“I spent two weeks in quarantine. I was trying to keep my family safe,” he had told reporters.

“The first week of quarantine I was by myself in the hotel room. I didn’t want to bring them the virus.

“But the second week I was in quarantine, my family was able to join me. I wish we could have celebrated right from the start, but in the end, we were able to spend some time together and celebrate together.”

Matsuyama is currently playing in the PGA Championship in a bid to win back-to-back major titles.

While his homeland battles the virus, the five-time PGA Tour winner watched in surprise as spectators walked around Kiawah Island without masks during Tuesday’s practice rounds.

“It’s a sign of US vaccination success and loosened restrictions against Covid-19. The virus is looked at a little bit differently in Japan than here in the United States,” Matsuyama said.

“Just look around today. Lots of people are here watching golf without masks, where in Japan they’re still very cautious.

“I can certainly understand those people who are voicing their opinion about (not having) the Olympics.”

But with the current situation in his country notwithstanding, Matsuyama wants the Games to be staged, not only for himself but for thousands of other Japanese athletes.

“Personally, I’m looking forward to the Olympics and looking forward to playing, representing my country,” Matsuyama said.

Echoing the Japanese golfer was four-time major winner Rory McIlroy and second-ranked Justin Thomas, who too are excited about golfing in the Tokyo Olympics.

World number seven McIlroy is set to play for Ireland despite such issues as not being able to bring his family or see other Olympic events.

“No, it’s certainly not going to be the authentic Olympic experience that you would normally get, but it’s the times that we’re living in,” McIlroy said.

Thomas said he wouldn’t miss the Olympics.

“I’m very excited about the possibility of playing for the US on the Olympic team.”

With inputs from agencies

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