By STEPHEN WADE, AP Sports Reporter
INZAI CITY, Japan (AP) — Players who left to compete in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series should be eligible to earn ranking points, former Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama said Tuesday.
Speaking at the Zozo Championship, which opens on Thursday, Matsuyama called the ranking points issue “difficult” and did not provide any details, solutions or clarifications.
“I think they should be able to do that,” he said in Japanese. “However, there is a procedure they will have to follow.”
LIV Golf is financed by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia. Matsuyama suggested he stay with the PGA Tour.
“I’m a member of the PGA Tour,” Matsuyama said. “The players who left did it because they thought it was the right thing to do. So I can’t say anything about them.”
Viktor Hovland also said that LIV players shouldn’t get an automatic exemption for rating points.
“If you want to get world ranking points, obviously you have to go through the process,” said the Norwegian. “And I think they obviously make an effort to get those points, but I don’t think it’s fair to give them an exemption to get points overnight. They obviously have to go through the process, whatever he be.
Matsuyama won last year’s Zozo Championship – the only PGA Tour event in Japan – with a final round 65 for a five-stroke win over Brendan Steele at Accordia Golf Narashino Country Club, the same venue this year.
He will be the local favorite on the course located about an hour from Tokyo. The scholarship is $11 million.
“The energy the fans provide really helps me, it helps my game,” Matsuyama said. “But on the other hand, there’s a pressure that goes with it.”
Xander Schauffele may be under more pressure than Matsuyama and will also have his own Japan-linked supporters.
The American’s mother has roots in Taiwan but grew up in Japan. He said his wife, Maya, was born on the island of Okinawa in southern Japan, and his mother is from a small island off the coast of Okinawa, Miyakojima.
He said he had planned a pre-tournament meal in the Tokyo area with some of his extended family in Japan.
“I think we’ll probably be around 30, from what I’ve heard. It will be nice to see all my grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins,” he said.
Schauele was asked precisely how much he expected for dinner.
“As much as I can get out of it,” he said.
After the tournament, he travels 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 few nights.”
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