Hideki Matsuyama under pressure at WGC HSBC

<div class="news_article"><p>Defending champion Hideki Matsuyama admitted on Wednesday that he is under pressure to replicate the storming performance that propelled him to WGC-HSBC Champions glory in Shanghai one year ago.</p><p><a id='qTQ67twjSFFJC8xa-buLag' class='gie-single' href='http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/866492984' target='_blank' style='color:#a7a7a7;text-decoration:none;font-weight:normal !important;border:none;display:inline-block;'>Embed from Getty Images</a><script>window.gie=window.gie||function(c){(gie.q=gie.q||[]).push(c)};gie(function(){gie.widgets.load({id:'qTQ67twjSFFJC8xa-buLag',sig:'mgwxZ9XLGxZgXaUZLziXJMBImZF_MSHZd0NcSMKEjg8=',w:'594px',h:'390px',items:'866492984',caption: true ,tld:'co.uk',is360: false })});</script><script src='//embed-cdn.gettyimages.com/widgets.js' charset='utf-8' async></script></p><p>The Japanese opens his defence of &quot;Asia's major&quot; on Thursday alongside world number one Dustin Johnson of the United States and fast-rising Spaniard Jon Rahm.</p><p>The trio are among the headline attractions of a star-studded field at the $9.75 million showpiece event at Sheshan International Golf Club.</p><p>Other leading contenders at the tournament, which is on the US PGA Tour and European Tour, include last year's runner-up Henrik Stenson, Olympic champion Justin Rose and a clutch of current and former major winners in Phil Mickelson, Jason Day and Brooks Koepka.</p><p>The 25-year-old Matsuyama became the first Asian to win a World Golf Championship a year ago, and it was the catalyst for a brilliant run that also delivered the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational title in August.</p><p>Matsuyama and Johnson have a stranglehold on WGC events, splitting the last five between them -- two for the Japanese and three to the American.</p><p>&quot;It is different coming back as defending champion,&quot; said Matsuyama, the world number four, who seared his way to victory last year by a comprehensive seven shots from the Swede Stenson and Daniel Berger of the United States.</p><p>&quot;I don't want to put a lot of pressure or expectation on myself, I just want to let the tournament come to me, like it did last year.</p><p>&quot;All I can do is try to play my best and hopefully I will play well.&quot;</p><p>Making Matsuyama's task all the harder, he will also have to contend with a growing challenge from the home golfers.</p><p>Prime among the Chinese who will hope to be in the mix on the final day on Sunday are Li Haotong, a rising talent who underlined his potential with an eye-catching third-place finish at the British Open in July.</p><p>Matsuyama said he believes Asian players still have a gap to close on the top American and European players, with the top three in the world all from the United States -- Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas.</p><p>And he said that having got close to the top of the world rankings, he now had a battle to stay there, particularly with the likes of the powerful Rahm coming up fast behind him.</p><p>&quot;To stay on top and continue on top, I am still learning how to do that,&quot; said Matsuyama.</p><p>&quot;That's one of my goals and one of the things that I'm working on now is to be able to stay on top of my game.&quot;</p><p>Top-ranked Johnson has mastered the tournament before, winning it in 2013, and given his form in WGC events it would be a surprise if he fails to challenge this week.</p><p>&quot;I'm always excited to come here and I've had a lot of success in this tournament, it's something I look forward to,&quot; he said.</p><p>&quot;My game is getting there, I had three weeks off so a little rusty but hopefully I knocked all of the rust off today (practising),&quot; added the 33-year-old American, who spent the time off doing gym work and a spot of fishing.</p><p>Rahm has never played the WGC-HSBC Champions before and the 22-year-old is relishing tasting golf in China.</p><p>&quot;I can't wait for the tournament to get started, the course is in great shape, it's a beautiful course that I think suits my game well,&quot; said Rahm, the highest-ranked European in Shanghai at five in the world.</p><p>Stenson, ranked number nine, is hoping to go one better than 12 months ago.</p><p>&quot;I wasn't really in the mix for winning the tournament, Hideki was playing outstanding and left everyone in the dust so it was more of a race for second,&quot; said the 41-year-old.</p></div>