By Stephen Wade, AP Sports Writer
INZAI CITY, Japan (AP) — The players who left to compete in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series should be entitled to earn ranking points, former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama said Tuesday.
Speaking at the Zozo Championship, which opens Thursday, Matsuyama called the ranking-points question ”difficult” and didn’t offer any details, solutions or clarifications.
“I think they should be able to,” he said, speaking in Japanese. “However, there’s a procedure they’ll have to follow.”
LIV Golf is funded by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund. Matsuyama suggested he was staying with the PGA Tour.
“I’m a member of the PGA Tour,” Matsuyama said. “The players who left did so because they thought it was the right thing to do. So I can’t say anything about them.”
Now at @PGATOUR – Hideki Matsuyama has been one of the game's premier approach players for nearly a decade. As he prepares to defend his title this week at the @zozochamp in Japan, a dive into the numbers that explain his success –https://t.co/JjvLPtEW0z
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) October 10, 2022
Viktor Hovland also said LIV players shouldn’t get an automatic exemption for ranking points.
“If you want to get world ranking points, you obviously have to follow the process,” the Norwegian said. “And I think they’re obviously making an effort to get those points, but I don’t think it’s right to give them an exemption to just get points overnight. They obviously have to follow the process, whatever the process might be.”
Matsuyama won last year’s Zozo Championship — the only PGA Tour event in Japan — with a final-round 65 for a five-shot victory over Brendan Steele at the Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, the same venue for this year.
He’ll be the local favorite at the course located about an hour outside Tokyo. The purse is $11 million.
“The energy that the fans provide really helps out, it helps my game,” Matsuyama said. “But on the other hand, there’s pressure that goes along with it.”
Xander Schauffele may be under more pressure than Matsuyama, and also will have his own Japan-related following.
The American’s mother has roots in Taiwan but grew up in Japan. He said his wife, Maya, was born in Japan’s southern island of Okinawa, and her mother is from a small island off the Okinawa coast — Miyakojima.
He said he has a pre-tournament meal in the Tokyo area planned with some of his extended family in Japan.
“I think there’s going to be probably roughly 30 of us is what I’ve heard. It will be nice to see all my grandparents, my uncles, aunts and my cousins,” he said.
Schauffele was asked precisely how many he expected for dinner.
“As many as I can get out,” he said.
After the tournament, he’s heading to the Okinawa area for another family event with his “wife’s grandparents.”
“I’ve never met them,” he said, “so I’m very excited to go and spend a couple nights.”