AUGUSTA, Ga. — Hideki Matsuyama stood on the 18th inexperienced at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday night, a winner of the Masters Tournament. There had been no skyward leap, no cathartic, celebratory climb into his caddie’s arms.
Just a hat tip and a few hugs — an understated, in-the-moment recognition of a seminal achievement for Matsuyama, the primary Asian-born golfer to assert a inexperienced jacket, and for golf in Japan.
“When the final putt went in, I wasn’t really thinking of anything,” he stated, including that he was pleased for his caddie, Shota Hayafuji, as a result of it was his first win.
“And then, it started sinking in,” Matsuyama stated, “the joy of being a Masters champion.”
It was attribute Matsuyama, the person who used a rain delay on Saturday to play video games on his cellphone in his automotive, the golfer who for years has been unsettling opponents whereas seeming set on avoiding the highlight.
“He doesn’t talk a whole lot, and he’s really solid,” Justin Thomas stated after his spherical however earlier than Matsuyama’s triumph.
“I think he’s quite an intense character, actually, even though we don’t really see that,” stated Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters winner who has identified Matsuyama for years. “I mean, and obsessive about his game.”
“He played like a winner needs to play,” stated Xander Schauffele, who was paired with him for the ultimate spherical on Sunday. “He was like a robot.”
Just underneath six ft and weighing near 200 kilos, Matsuyama had been lionized in Japan, the place he started to be taught golf from his father, lengthy earlier than he rose to No. 2 on the earth, even earlier than his victory at Augusta National, which earned him $2,070,000. He performed within the Masters for the primary time in 2011, when he tied for 27th and was topped the low novice. He shot a 68 within the third spherical then, a visit by means of the course that he stated was important to constructing the fortitude he would wish outdoors the novice ranks.
“It gave me the confidence that I could play here,” he stated. “I could play professional golf as a career.”
He joined the PGA Tour in 2013 and received a number of tournaments earlier than a breakout 2017, when he topped the leaderboard at three occasions and positioned second on the United States Open.
It was that yr when his penchant for privateness grew to become clear: He introduced that he had married months earlier and that he and his spouse had had a baby.
“No one really asked me if I was married, or, you know, so I didn’t have to answer that question,” he stated at a event information convention then. “But I felt that after the P.G.A. would be a good time, because our baby is born and I thought that would be a good time to let everyone know.”
The shyness stays. Asked over the weekend how he felt concerning the coronavirus pandemic having saved extra journalists away from the grounds at Augusta National, he replied: “I’m glad the media are here covering it, but it’s not my favorite thing to do, to stand and answer questions. And so with fewer media, it’s been a lot less stressful for me, and I’ve enjoyed this week.”
But within the years earlier than a full ascent into golf’s elite, significantly in Japan, Matsuyama was a promising younger participant looking for steering, Scott remembered.
“I found back then he was really interested to learn everything he could,” Scott recalled of his interactions with a youthful Matsuyama in the course of the 2013 Presidents Cup, the primary of 4 during which Matsuyama would compete.
“Just someone who’s got a desire to do well is what it looked like,” Scott stated later. “He wasn’t afraid to ask the questions, and I think that shows. As timid as some people can be, the desire to do well overshadows the language barrier or being shy or anything like that.”
Until Sunday, nevertheless, he had been in one thing of a stoop, regardless that he was main the Players Championship in 2020 when the remainder of the event was canceled because the coronavirus gained a larger foothold within the United States.
This yr, Matsuyama stated, he had a coach with him from Japan who was serving to him to enhance his sport.
“He’s been a great help, a great benefit,” Matsuyama stated on Saturday. “Things that I was feeling in my swing, I could talk to him about that.” He added: “He always gives me good feedback. He has a good eye. It’s like having a mirror for my swing, and it’s been a great help for me. We worked hard, and hopefully now it’s all starting to come together.”
On Sunday night in Augusta, it did.
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