Hideki Matsuyama made history on Sunday as the first male golfer from Japan to win a major championship.
Ten years after making a sterling debut as the best amateur at Augusta National, Matsuyama asserted a ultimate trophy with a triumph in the Masters.
Matsuyama, 29, closed with a 1-more than 73 and a 1-shot triumph that was close just toward the end and was never truly in doubt after Xander Schauffele’s late charge finished of a triple bogey on the par-3 16th.
Moments before Dustin Johnson helped him into the green jacket, Matsuyama needed no interpreter in Butler Cabin when he said in English, “I’m really happy.”
So mind blowing was this performance that Matsuyama extended his lead to 6 shots on the back nine until a couple of seconds of drama. With a 4-shot lead, he went for the green in two on the standard 5 fifteenth, and the ball bounded hard off the back slope and into the pond on the 16th hole.
Matsuyama did well to walk away with an bogey, and with Schauffele making a fourth straight birdie, the lead was down to 2 shots with three to play.
The following swing everything except finished it. Schauffele’s tee shot on the standard 3 sixteenth ricocheted off the hill and dribbled into the pond. His third shot from the drop territory went into the display. He wound up with a triple-bogey 6.
Quit worrying about that Matsuyama bogeyed three of his last four holes to turn into the principal Masters champion with a final round over par since Trevor Immelman shot 75 of every 2008.
All that mattered was that uphill walk to the eighteenth green, requiring just to impact out of the bunker and take two putts for the triumph.
What’s more, that is the thing that he did, absorbing the second with two or three thousand observers on their feet to commend a vocation evolving second.
“Hopefully, I’ll be a pioneer and many other Japanese will follow,” Matsuyama said.
Five-time Masters champ Tiger Woods echoed that sentiment in a tweet Sunday, congratulating Matsuyama on a triumph that would “impact the entire golf world.”
Will Zalatoris, the 24-year-old Masters rookie, holed a 18-foot par putt on the last opening for a 70 and was runner-up. It was the best performance by a first-timer to the Masters since another Dallas kid, Jordan Spieth, was runner-up in 2014 to Bubba Watson.
Spieth had a few fleeting thoughts of coming from 6 shots behind with the exception of too many missed putts early and missed opportunities late. He came up short his last opening for a 70 and tied for third with Schauffele, who shot a 72 with a triple bogey and a twofold intruder on his card.
Matsuyama completed at 10-under 278 for his 15th victory worldwide, and his 6th on the PGA Tour.
He was far from a sure thing, shutting down at 40-1 to win the tournament at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Matsuyama could be found upward of 60-1 preceding the tournament at some sportsbooks, making him one of the biggest long shots to win the Masters since Danny Willett in 2016.
Matsuyama was not a popular choice for bettors, all things considered. As of Thursday, he represented just 1% of the money that had been bet on the chances to win the Masters at William Hill sportsbooks.
Getting back to the eighteenth green for the trophy presentation, Matsuyama again put on the green coat and brought the two arms up in win. Augusta National permitted restricted onlookers, accepted to be around 8,000 every day, and most may have recollected that him from 10 years prior.
He won the Asia-Pacific Amateur to procure a invitation to the Masters, and he was low beginner – attached with defending champion Phil Mickelson that year – to acquire an excursion into famed Butler Cabin. He won in Japan as a amateur, and four times after he graduated college and turned pro. His first PGA Tour triumph was at the Memorial in 2014, provoking competition have Jack Nicklaus to say, “I think you’ve just seen the start of what’s going to be truly one of your world’s great players over the next 10 to 15 years.”
That second came Sunday.
Matsuyama isn’t enthusiastic about feeling, and he talks even less when cornered after each round by the huge contingent of Japanese media.
The vast majority of the media was absent this year because of COVID-19 travel limitations, and Matsuyama had said just before the last round that there had been significantly less stress.
There was a lot on the golf course, right from the start.
Matsuyama sent his opening tee shot into the trees right of the first fairway. He punched it under the trees from the pine straw, hit a delicate pitch that moved down the incline away from the pin and was glad to leave with bogey. Two gatherings in front of him, Zalatoris opened with two straight birdies.
Actually like that, the lead was down to a single shot.
Nobody drew any nearer until the final hour. Matsuyama made birdie from the front fortification on the standard 5 second hole. He didn’t make another birdie until the par-5 eighth, and it didn’t matter because no one could put any pressure on him.
Zalatoris misjudged the speed on No. 3 and three-putted for bogey from simply off the rear of the green. Schauffele was inside 3 shots of the lead going to the third hole, just to go bogey-bogey-double bogey on the hardest three-hole stretch on the course.
Matsuyama conveyed what had all the earmarks of being a knockout punch with a nifty up-and-down from right of the green on the eighth for a tap-in birdie, and a lob wedge to the risky left pin on the ninth that rolled out to 3 feet. That sent him to the back nine with a 5-shot lead.
For a very long time, it looked like Matsuyama couldn’t hold back to get to Butler Cabin and perceive what he looked like in green.
Schauffele, be that as it may, slammed in a 20-foot birdie putt from behind the twelfth green. He two-putted from 10 feet for birdie on No. 13. He almost holed out from the fairway for a tap-in birdie on the fourteenth. Furthermore, he almost holed his greenside fortification shot on the par-5 15th for a fourth straight birdie.
And afterward all that work went in vain when his ball disappeared below the outside of the pond.
Matsuyama could afford a few bogeys, and all that influenced was the final margin. He is the Masters champion, a major that defines his first class status in the game and gives golf in Japan the greatest week it has at any point had in April. The week began seven days prior Saturday when Tsubasa Kajitani won the second Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Matsuyama wasn’t around to see it, yet he was very much aware of it. All he needed was to follow her path and make Japan proud. His play said a lot.