AUGUSTA, Ga. — Hideki Matsuyama’s first swing in the ultimate spherical of the 85th Masters was an unpleasant banana-shaped slice that may have regarded acquainted on the nerve-racking first tee of any golf course in the world.
Matsuyama, who entered Sunday’s fourth spherical with a four-shot lead, had not slept a lot Saturday night time, and the stroll Sunday afternoon from the apply vary to the golf course was extra disquieting.
“When I got to the first tee it hit me,” Matsuyama mentioned. “I was really nervous.”
But Matsuyama hunted down his wayward opening drive in the left woods and decisively selected an intrepid course, smashing his ball from a mattress of wispy pine straw via a slender hole between two bushes. Matsuyama’s caddie, Shota Hayafuji, yelped, “Woo,” which elicited a toothy grin from the usually undemonstrative Matsuyama.
Even although he bogeyed the first gap, the tone for his day was set.
A former teenage golf prodigy in Japan who has lengthy been anticipated to interrupt via on golf’s greatest stage, Matsuyama, 29, fearlessly charged the daunting Augusta National Golf Club format on Sunday to construct a commanding lead. Even with three unsteady bogeys in the closing holes, he persevered with a gutsy final-round 73 to win the 2021 Masters by one stroke and grow to be the event’s first Asian-born champion.
Matsuyama, who completed 10 underneath par for the event, can also be the first Japanese man to win a serious golf championship. Will Zalatoris completed second, and Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth tied for third place at seven underneath par.
Matsuyama’s groundbreaking victory will make him a nationwide hero in golf-crazy Japan, which has had a wealthy historical past of producing world-class male golfers who’ve come near successful a serious championship over the previous a number of a long time however have fallen brief. Two Japanese girls have gained main golf championships. Matsuyama’s breakthrough comes at a time of unrest over racially focused violence towards Asians and Asian-Americans.
The new face of Japanese golf is shy and tight-lipped, a lot in order that when he was married and had a toddler in 2017 he stored it hidden from the golf world for seven months. Sunday, after receiving his ceremonial inexperienced jacket beside the 18th inexperienced, Matsuyama stood immobile, his arms at his sides as information photographers took his image. Urged to look celebratory, he raised each arms overhead and meekly smiled. Emboldened by the winsome response it elicited, Matsuyama widened his grin and jabbed his fists in the air twice.
Led to a information convention, Matsuyama was requested if he was now the biggest golfer in Japanese historical past.
“I cannot say that I am the greatest,” he answered via an interpreter. “However, I’m the first to win a major, and if that’s the bar, then I set it.”
Matsuyama was extra thinking about answering what impact his victory may need on younger Japanese golfers.
“Up until now, we haven’t had a major champion in Japan, maybe a lot of young golfers thought it was an impossibility,” he mentioned. “Hopefully this will set an example that it is possible and if they set their mind to it, they can do it, too.”
Matsuyama, who had the low rating for an beginner at the 2011 Masters, was ranked as excessive as second in the world 4 years in the past, however abruptly fell right into a stoop. Until Sunday, he had not gained a event since 2017 and his rating had slipped to 25th worldwide.
But after a glowing 65 in the third round Saturday — he had an eagle and 4 birdies in his ultimate eight holes — Matsuyama got here into the ultimate spherical with a wholesome cushion atop the leaderboard. He was regular at the begin on Sunday, even after the opening-hole bogey. He rebounded with a birdie at the second, then reeled off 5 pars and cruised into the again 9 with a cushty five-stroke lead.
But as typically occurs on a Masters Sunday, odd, unforeseen things ensued.
At the par-5 15th gap, Matsuyama sized up a second shot in the fairway that was 227 yards from the flagstick. He mentioned he “flushed” a Four-iron however his golf ball rocketed off the inexperienced and scooted into the water behind the gap. It was no small misstep, not together with his enjoying companion Schauffele about to birdie his fourth consecutive gap. Matsuyama didn’t lose his poise or persistence. Taking a penalty stroke, he prudently chipped to the fringe of the inexperienced and two-putted for a bogey.
Schauffele was trailing by solely two strokes when the duo stepped on the 16th tee. Still chasing the chief, Schauffele mentioned he felt he needed to go for one more birdie, however his aggressive tee shot was brief of the inexperienced and trickled right into a pond.
Schauffele mentioned the notoriously swirling Augusta National winds double-crossed him, a well-recognized rejoinder, and sure an correct one.
“I hit a good shot; it turned out bad,” Schauffele, who made a triple bogey on the gap, mentioned. “I’ll sleep OK tonight — I might be tossing around a little.”
The flip of occasions made the Masters rookie Zalatoris the closest pursuer to Matsuyama, particularly after Zalatoris made a prolonged, downhill par putt on the 18th gap to complete the ultimate spherical at 9 underneath par, simply two strokes behind Matsuyama.
With two holes left to play, Matsuyama hit an excellent drive in the center of the 17th fairway, launched an ideal wedge shot to the center of the inexperienced and two-putted for par. At the 18th gap, he hit one other good drive however his method shot pale and landed in the greenside bunker to the proper of the inexperienced. His restoration from the sand stopped six toes from the gap, however two putts nonetheless gave him the championship.
The second place finish by Zalatoris, who’s in his first yr on the PGA Tour, will increase his profile in the golf group significantly, particularly together together with his end result at the 2020 United States Open the place he tied for sixth. Leaving the 18th gap Sunday, Zalatoris, 24, obtained a standing ovation from the followers ringing the inexperienced.
“Absolute dream,” Zalatoris mentioned. “I’ve been dreaming about it for 20 years.” He added: “I think the fact that I’m frustrated I finished second in my third major says something. Obviously, my two majors as a pro, I finished sixth and runner-up. I know if I keep doing what I doing, I’m going to have a really good chance in the future.”
Matsuyama additionally obtained a hearty, lengthy ovation as he left the 18th inexperienced on Sunday. When he sank his ultimate putt and the victory was assured, Matsuyama, not like most golfers in that scenario, had no seen response.
“I really wasn’t thinking anything,” Matsuyama acknowledged. “Then it started to sink in, the joy of being a Masters champion. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like, but what a thrill and honor it will be for me to take the green jacket back to Japan.”
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