AUGUSTA, Ga. – Hideki Matsuyama’s march to victory and into the historical past books in his homeland of Japan positively had its stops and begins Sunday night on the Masters.
But when it was over, when Matsuyama’s remaining putt fell because the shadows grew lengthy to guarantee a surprisingly slim one-shot win, the 29-year-old grew to become far more than simply one other Masters champion. His victory at 10-under par made him not solely the event’s first Asian-born champion but additionally the primary Japanese man to win a serious golf title.
As a younger man, he first got here to the Masters as an novice in 2011 and once more in 2012, invited by Augusta National as a result of he gained the Asia-Pacific Amateur, making the minimize each occasions and displaying the early promise that foreshadowed every week similar to this. He got here to Augusta that first yr hurting for his nation; a month earlier, his dwelling of Sendai had been ravaged by a horrible earthquake and a collection of tsunamis that resulted in additional than 15,000 deaths.
He stated he wasn’t positive if he even ought to have been in Augusta, however when he completed tied for twenty seventh, a exceptional achievement for an novice enjoying in his first Masters, he stated, “Hopefully, my play was able to bring some encouragement to those that are in need right now.”
Flash ahead ten years. Once once more, he was considering of his golf-loving nation, which was awakening to the information of his victory Monday morning.
“It’s thrilling to think that there are a lot of youngsters in Japan watching today,” he stated by way of an interpreter. “Hopefully in five, 10 years, when they get a little older, some of them will be competing on the world stage. … Hopefully I’ll be a pioneer, and many other Japanese will follow. I’m glad to be able to open the floodgates.”
For a couple of hours Sunday, it appeared Matsuyama was going to surge to a straightforward victory – if there ever is such a factor on the Masters – persevering with a mastery of the course that started Saturday afternoon. After ready out a rain delay by enjoying video video games on his cellular phone in his automotive within the parking zone, he returned to shoot six-under par over his remaining eight holes of the third spherical to take a four-shot lead into the ultimate spherical.
The bubble burst, just a little, when he began Sunday with a mistake, a gap drive that flew proper of the golf green into the pine straw, main to a bogey on No. 1. But he acquired the stroke proper back inside minutes by birdieing the par-5 second gap from 4 toes.
Short putts have been the theme of his entrance nine as he birdied each No. 8 and No. 9 from 4 toes to attain 13-under-par, good for a large five-shot lead with nine holes to play.
Soon, although, things acquired messy because the meticulous Matsuyama all of the sudden began making errors. He bogeyed the notoriously confounding par-3 twelfth, however got here proper back to sink a brief birdie putt on the par-5 thirteenth.
Then, on the par-5 fifteenth, catastrophe: his super-charged 4-iron overshot the inexperienced and ended up within the water by the sixteenth gap. Another bogey.
More hassle on the par-3 sixteenth. Another bogey.
After a par on 17, he held a two-shot lead as he launched a fantastic tee shot on 18, which means he might bogey the opening and nonetheless win, and he did precisely that for a one-over spherical of 73 and the one-stroke victory.
Asked if he was nervous in these remaining few shaky holes, he stated no, he really was nervous all day. “My nerves didn’t start on the second nine,” he stated. “It was right from the start today.”
Whatever it was, nevertheless he held on, it was historic and it was ground-breaking. He now joins two Japanese ladies who’ve gained majors: Hisako Higuchi gained the 1977 LPGA Championship and Hinako Shibuno gained the 2019 Women’s British Open.
Eight days earlier, his countrywoman, 17-year-old Tsubasa Kajitani, gained the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. And now, right here he was, successful as properly and energizing a nation.
This article initially appeared on USA TODAY: Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama hopes win elevates golf in Japan