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A masterpiece from Hideki Matsuyama to take Masters lead

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — The storms that stopped play for a bit of greater than hour Saturday on the Masters have been anticipated. The masterpiece delivered by Hideki Matsuyama after the break was not.

Matsuyama performed the ultimate eight holes in 6-under par, turning a two-shot deficit right into a four-shot lead. With 4 flawless swings and three putts late on the again 9 at Augusta National, he went from a part of a logjam on the leaderboard to the cusp of changing into the primary Japanese participant to win a serious.

The closing contact was an outstanding par save from 25 yards behind the 18th inexperienced for a 7-under 65, the one bogey-free spherical this week on the Masters.

“I wouldn’t have believed it,” Matsuyama stated via his interpreter. “But I did play well today. And my game plan was carried out, and hopefully, tomorrow I can continue good form.”

It all began in his automotive, the place the 29-year-old waited out the storm delay. Part of the time was taking part in on his telephone. He additionally considered his final shot, a drive into timber proper of the eleventh fairway.

“During the rain delay, I just figured I can’t hit anything worse than that,” Matsuyama stated. “And so maybe it relieved some pressure. I don’t know. But I did hit it well coming in.”

Matsuyama was at 11-under 205, 4 pictures away from Xander Schauffele (68), Justin Rose (72), Marc Leishman (70) and Masters rookie Will Zalatoris (71).

It was 10 years in the past when Matsuyama first performed within the Masters because the Asia-Pacific Amateur winner. He discovered then he might deal with Augusta National as the one novice to make the minimize in 2011, ending on the identical rating (1-under 287) as defending champion Phil Mickelson.

Now comes the true take a look at.

“If Hideki plays well, he can control his own destiny, I guess,” Leishman stated. “But a lot can happen around here. I’ve seen what can happen. I’ve had bad rounds here myself and I’ve had good rounds. You can make up four shots fairly quickly, but you have to do a lot of things right to do that.”

Matsuyama did nearly every part proper, beginning together with his first shot after the delay — a 7-iron he punched below the timber and onto an eleventh inexperienced barely slowed by the moisture to 20 toes for birdie.

After his birdie from 10 toes on the twelfth, Augusta National got here to life. Imagine the roars if there had been a full capability of spectators.

In a sequence that took not more than two minutes, Schauffele ran in a 60-foot eagle putt throughout the fifteenth inexperienced to momentarily tie for the lead at 7 below; again on the twelfth, Rose made a 25-foot putt for his first birdie because the second gap, giving him the lead at 8 below.

That lasted so long as it took Matsuyama to money in on his 5-iron to the fifteenth by making a 5-foot eagle putt to attain 9 below, his first time within the lead. And nobody might sustain.

“I’ve been playing with the lead the whole week, and obviously there’s been an hour where Hideki has sort of moved out there in front,” Rose stated. “All the guys chasing at 7-under par are all capable of that little run Hideki has had. So it’s all up for grabs tomorrow.”

Matsuyama adopted with an 8-iron to 5 toes to the entrance proper shelf on the par-3 sixteenth for birdie, and his pitching wedge to the again pin on the seventeenth had sufficient spin to settle 10 toes from the outlet for one more.

Corey Conners had a hole-in-one on No. 6 in a 68 and was at 6-under 210. Jordan Spieth was inside two pictures of the lead regardless of a double bogey on the seventh gap, however he could not maintain tempo and shot 72 to fall six pictures behind.

Matsuyama will play within the closing group with Schauffele, a snug pairing. Schauffele’s mom was raised in Japan and he speaks sufficient Japanese to share a couple of laughs with Matsuyama throughout Saturday’s pairing.

That will not get rid of all of the stress. A main is on the road, and no different course than Augusta National is able to serving up surprises.

Matsuyama’s lone shot at a serious was at Quail Hollow within the 2017 PGA Championship when he was one shot behind with three holes to play and missed a vital par putt. He was in tears after that spherical, a participant below huge stress in golf-mad Japan.

Matsuyama wasn’t the primary Japanese star of his era — that was shut good friend Ryo Ishikawa — however he’s by far essentially the most completed. Matsuyama has 14 worldwide wins, 5 on the PGA Tour. He has reached as excessive as No. 2 on this planet.

He hardly ever can go wherever on the PGA Tour with out a dozen or extra Japanese media following. Their numbers are restricted this 12 months due to COVID-19 journey restrictions.

“Being in front of the media is still difficult. It’s not my favorite thing to do,” Matsuyama stated via his interpreter. “It’s been a lot less stress for me. I’ve enjoyed this week.”

A victory would give Japan a sweep this week. Tsubasa Kajitani received the Augusta National Women’s Amateur final Saturday.

“I wasn’t able to watch it. I was playing last week in Texas,” Matsuyama said. “It was fantastic. I hope I can follow in her shoes and make Japan proud.”

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