Matsuyama still upbeat for Masters defence

Hideki Matsuyama still hopes to mount a strong defence of his Masters title at Augusta, despite fresh injury problems hampering his build-up.

Matsuyama (33/1 – Masters outright) had already been struggling with a back issue before a stiff neck forced to withdraw during the second round of the Valero Texas Open.

However, the first-ever Japanese men’s Major winner is still fairly confident that he can feature and do well in Georgia next week.

He told reporters: “I’ve been receiving a lot of treatment, getting prepared. I’m going to do my very best to be as prepared as I can to defend my title.

“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 was not the only big name to struggle in San Antonio, with both Bryson DeChambeau (28/1 – Masters outright)  and Rory McIlroy (14/1) missing the cut.

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McIlroy was two above the cut line on +1, while DeChambeau was a further four shots back and his form is a major concern, as he also failed to make it out of the pool stage of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play last week.

Meanwhile, Ryan Palmer (4/1 – Texas Open outright) leads the way by two shots on 10-under par, having backed up an opening 68 with a bogey-free 66 in the second round.

And the American, whose closest challengers are South African Dylan Frittelli (9/1) and compatriots Kevin Chappell (12/1) and Matt Kuchar (9/1), was pleased with his day’s work and especially happy with the way he drove the ball.

He told reporters: “To go bogey-free on this golf course is good any day, but when you throw in the winds we had, it makes it that much more special.

“I spent the last month and a half really struggling and my results have kind of shown that, but my driver’s back to where it was a year ago, my game is where I feel it was a year ago.”

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