Augusta, Georgia — When Hideki Matsuyama stood on his first tee at Augusta National on Sunday, there was more pressure than he had imagined. So was his feelings when he left the 18th green as the first masters champion from Japan to be a golf enthusiast.
His arms were firmly inside the sleeves of the green jacket, and he pushed them into the air.
Ten years after making his Sterling debut as the best amateur in the Masters, 29-year-old Matsuyama won the highest award and gained his place in history.
It is not his concern whether he is the greatest player in Japan.
“But I’m the first to win a major,” he said through an interpreter. “And if it’s a bar, I set it.”
From the time Matsuyama hit the opening tee shot into the tree to the back-to-back birdie, he stuck to the 4-shot lead, and from the time he led to the 6-shot lead, Zander became nervous at the last few nervous moments. .. Schaufele lags behind him.
Only when he drove the 18th fairway and picked up the club could he feel this victory at hand. He played so well for so long that three bogies made this master look closer than before in the last four holes.
He defeated Masters Rookie Will Zaratris (70) in one shot, closing 73 with one over.
Schaufele ran through four straight birdies and made it within two shots, playing on three holes, but on the 16th of par 3, he hit an eight iron into the water and disappointed with a triple bogey. He scored 72 with triple bogey and double bogey on the card, tying third with Jordan Spieth (70).
“Man, he was something else. He played as the winner needed to play,” Schaufele said. “16. I really wanted to put more pressure on him, but basically gave him a tournament at that point.”
Then his thoughts turned to the importance of what Matsuyama had accomplished. Schaufele’s mother grew up in Japan and her grandparents still live in Japan.
“No one really wants to talk about how much pressure he has,” Schaufele said. “You see the media that follows him. You see what he did in his career. He is a top-ranked player who puts a lot of pressure on him and it plays. Is the most difficult way. He can do it. “
And he did it.
The less-spoken player’s emotions were less obvious. Just before Dustin Johnson helped put him in a green jacket, Matsuyama didn’t need an interpreter in the Butler cabin when he said “I’m really happy” in English.
This performance was so great that Matsuyama extended his lead to 6 shots back nine until the moment of the drama. He bounced violently from the back slope to the pond on the 16th hole, aiming for the green with 2 strokes on the 15th of par 5 by 4 strokes.
Matsuyama successfully left with a bogey, and Schaufele made four consecutive birdies, dropping the lead to two shots. And that’s over.
Schaufele was underwater. Matsuyama made a safe par on the 17th and ripped one par in the middle of the 18th fairway. He made a bogey from a bunker, finished with a 10 under 278, and put thousands of spectators at his feet to celebrate the moment of career change.
Spice competed in Japan and played with Matsuyama on the home ground. He may have something to do with having a four-shot lead that Spice had when he won the Masters in 2015. He cannot relate to the expectations of the whole country.
“He’s putting a lot of pressure on himself,” Spice said. “I remember the feeling of a four-shot reed. He carries Japan, and probably Asia. If anyone succeeds, how it was trying to sleep on it. I can’t imagine. “
Matsuyama won the world’s 15th victory and won the 6th title on the PGA Tour. He has participated in 93 tournaments without winning, the longest drought for the Masters Champion since 1987, and ranked 14th in the world.
He will be the second man to win a major from an Asian country. South Korea’s YE Yang won the 2009 PGA Championship at Tiger Woods in Hazeltin.
Matsuyama won the championship as an amateur in Japan, and has won four times since graduating from college in 2013 and turning professional.
His first PGA Tour victory took place at the 2014 Memorial, and tournament organizer Jack Nicklaus said: “
That moment came on Sunday.
Matsuyama isn’t emotionally big, and he speaks even less, even when cornered after each round by a large delegation of Japanese media.
Most media were absent this year due to travel restrictions on COVID-19, and Matsuyama said stress was significantly reduced the night before the final round.
There were many golf courses from the beginning.
“I felt really good going to the first tee until I got to the first tee, and then I realized that I was in the last group of the Masters Tournament and became a leader in four strokes. And I was really nervous, “he said. “But I caught myself. And today’s plan was just to go out and do my best for 18 holes. And that was my idea all day long. Just do my best. Please continue.”
Matsuyama sent an opening tee shot to the trees on the right side of the first fairway. He hit it from the straw of the pine under the tree, hit a soft pitch that rolled off the pin and rolled down the slope, and gladly left with a bogey. The two groups in front of him, Zalatoris, started with two straight birdies.
Just like that, there is now one lead. Matsuyama dropped a shot from everyone around him, so he passed through the toughest stretch in the front nine and quickly regained his cushion. He had a five-shot lead on the turn, and Schaufele was the only one to have a serious chance at the end.
He is the first winner in the final round beyond par since Trevor Immelman in 2008. Matsuyama is a Masters Champion, a major who defines the elite status in the game and gives Japan the biggest week in history in April.
It started a week ago on Saturday when Tsubasa Kajitani won the 2nd Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Matsuyama didn’t come to see it, but he knew it well. All he wanted was to follow her path and be proud of Japan.
His play spoke volume. So was his reaction.