TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan sucked in its breath as Hideki Matsuyama nearly blew his likelihood to win the Masters however the golfer’s one-shot victory at Augusta National sparked a joyous response again residence because the nation celebrated one other sporting triumph in testing occasions.
Matsuyama, 29, grew to become the primary man from Japan to win one of golf’s main titles, a feat that drew reward from authorities and Olympics officers with the Tokyo Games simply three months away.
Katsunobu Kato, Japan’s prime authorities spokesman, expressed “congratulations and respect from the heart” for Matsuyama’s “historic” win, which got here as one other ray of hope in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is another bright piece of news of a Japanese athlete’s outstanding performance on the global stage under tough circumstances like training,” Kato instructed an everyday information convention.
Kato pointed to tennis participant Naomi Osaka’s win on the Australian Open and Shohei Ohtani’s excellent efficiency each as a hitter and a batter this week in Major League Baseball as additional proof of Japan’s sporting success.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga referred to as Matsuyama’s win “wonderful” and a supply of satisfaction and braveness for the Japanese individuals in the course of the difficulties posed by the pandemic.
Matsuyama has began Sunday’s closing spherical with a four-shot lead and searching a powerful wager to hitch Hinako Shibuno and Chako Higuchi as Japanese main champions. Shibuno gained the Women’s British Open in 2019 and Higuchi gained the 1977 Women’s PGA Championship.
But Matsuyama’s march to win the coveted Green Jacket hit a velocity bump on the par 5 fifteenth, the place his strategy shot went within the water behind the inexperienced.
He may solely make bogey whereas taking part in companion Xander Schauffele birdied the opening, turning Matsuyama’s snug four-shot cushion right into a slender two-shot lead.
Schauffele’s triple-bogey on the subsequent gap gave Matsuyama some respiration area and whereas he dropped two extra strokes over the closing three holes it was sufficient for a one-shot win over Masters debutant Will Zalatoris.
Matsuyama’s win has prompted requires him to be given the honour of lighting the Olympic Games cauldron on the opening ceremony in July.
“It would be quite an honour,” he mentioned in a PGA Tour assertion. “But I’m not sure about my schedule. If the schedules worked out and I am in Japan when that happens and they ask me, what an honour that would be.”
Hidemasa Nakamura, the Games supply officer for the Tokyo Olympics organising committee, instructed Reuters he stayed up late at night time to observe Matsuyama.
“It was a nice encouragement because we would like to prepare for this summer in Tokyo so that such hard-working players can play an active role,” he mentioned.
Matsuyama additionally drew reward from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo.
“Congratulations to Hideki Matsuyama for winning #TheMasters! We knew years ago that he was destined for greatness,” the embassy mentioned in a tweet.
For a graphic exhibiting the ultimate Masters scores, click on right here https://graphics.reuters.com/GOLF-MASTERS/bdwvklzdxpm/chart.png.
(Reporting by Chris Gallagher and Ju-min Park; Editing by Peter Rutherford)