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Hideki Matsuyama preparing to defend Masters title after injuries

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Barring any late setback, Hideki Matsuyama plans to be in the field at Augusta National to try to defend his Masters title next month.

Matsuyama withdrew from The Players Championship with neck and shoulder injuries, and he hasn’t played on the PGA Tour since. He isn’t in the field this week at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, either.

Though he didn’t commit to playing next week, Matsuyama did say on Tuesday that his recovery has been going well and he plans to play in The Masters.

“I’ve been receiving a lot of treatment,” Matsuyama said, via Golfweek. “Really [Monday] was the first day that I’ve been able to have a good practice session. So the remainder of this week and next week, I’ll do my best to prepare well so I can defend my title at Augusta.

“My recovery is moving forward. Probably at 80% right now. Planning to practice hard this week and I’m intending to play in the Valero Texas Open as long as the pain keeps subsiding. I haven’t been able to practice as much as I’d like, but what I have been doing, I feel like I’m on the right track.”

Matsuyama edged out Will Zalatoris last April to win the Masters, which made him the first Japanese man to ever win a green jacket or a major championship.

“Being the first Japanese to win a major, and especially the Masters, has made me really happy,” Matsuyama said Tuesday, via Golfweek. “How it’s changed my life is a good question. I haven’t really figured that out yet. I know I’m a happier person. I’ve also noticed people have received me differently. It’s been a wonderful experience. If that’s changed my life, I don’t know. But that’s really the one impression that I’ve had this past year is how warm people have embraced me and received me and cheered me on.”

Matsuyama has won eight times on Tour in his career, including twice already this season — first at the Zozo Championship in October and then again at the Sony Open in Hawaii. He finished T6 at the Fortinet Championship and T8 at the WM Phoenix Open, too, and is currently ranked No. 12 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

He pulled out of The Players Championship due to a neck and shoulder injury he sustained during the Arnold Palmer Invitational the week before. Matsuyama finished the tournament at Bay Hill and came in T20.

“Hopefully I can find that same form that I started the year out with,” Matsuyama said, via Golfweek. “Going to the Masters is something very special for me and something I’ve really been looking forward to, so I’m going to do my very best to be as prepared as I can to defend my title there.”

Hideki Matsuyama
Hideki Matsuyama hasn’t played in recent weeks due to a neck and shoulder injury. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)