Pretty mundane approach to spend a rain delay, sitting in your automobile and scrolling by your cellphone. But Hideki Matsuyama wanted to clear his head Saturday after hitting his worst shot of the Masters, a drive on No. 11 that peeled up to now proper it wound up on a grass strip on the incorrect aspect of the bushes. Mercifully, officers blew the horn, signaling all gamers to depart the course with the opportunity of lightning coming by.
What a time for a psychological reboot.
Matsuyama resumed his third spherical 75 minutes later and was a brand new man. He performed the ultimate eight holes in six below par, turning within the first bogey-free spherical of anybody within the event and capturing a seven-under 65 to take a four-stroke lead at 11 under into Sunday.
It marks the primary time a Japanese participant has held a lead or co-lead after any spherical of the Masters, and Matsuyama is in prime place to be his nation’s first man to win a serious championship. Two girls have achieved so.
“Before the horn blew, I didn’t hit a very good drive,” he mentioned by an interpreter. “But after the horn blew for the restart, I hit practically every shot exactly how I wanted to.”
Matsuyama hasn’t received on the PGA Tour because the 2016-17 season, when it occurred thrice, and his greatest end within the Masters was fifth in 2015. The numbers are in his favor, although. There’s a four-way tie at seven below — Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman, Justin Rose and Will Zalatoris — and nobody within the final 24 Masters has overcome greater than a four-stroke deficit heading into Sunday to win.
What’s extra, it may play in Matsuyama’s favor that the media contingent is drastically lowered below COVID-19 restrictions.
“I’m not sure how to answer this in a good way, but being in front of the media is still difficult,” he mentioned. “I’m glad the media are here covering it, but it’s not my favorite thing to do, to stand and answer questions.”
Matsuyama completed because the low novice within the 2011 Masters and is wanting to turn into the seventh golfer to obtain that and finally win a inexperienced jacket. As famous by ESPN Stats & Info, the gamers who’ve achieved so are Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Cary Middlecoff, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia.
In the ultimate spherical, Matsuyama can be paired with San Diego’s Schauffele, who shot a 68 on Saturday that included a 60-foot putt for eagle on No. 15 that briefly gave him a share of the lead. Matsuyama would reclaim it for good with a five-foot eagle putt on the identical gap.
Schauffele, whose mom was raised in Japan, chatted and shared jokes with Matsuyama in Japanese throughout their spherical.
“I threw my few words here and there that I could,” Schauffele mentioned.
The ultra-fast Augusta greens performed softer and slower after the rain, Schauffele mentioned, however that offered a unique type of problem.
“The tricky part was probably hitting your putts hard enough,” he mentioned. “Normally you’d kind of just touch your putt, it gets feeding down that hill and it’s an easy two-putt. Now you’re sort of looking down at the creek there and you have to hit your putt hard coming down the hill.”
Matsuyama’s most clutch shot got here on the finish of his spherical, when he flew the 18th inexperienced from a fairway bunker and wound up on a walkway towards the clubhouse. He hit a chip shot not less than 20 yards again towards the outlet, leaving himself a three-foot putt to save par.
“Thankfully for the rain,” he mentioned, “I was able to put some spin on the ball and checked up and got close to the pin.”
This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Times.