AUGUSTA, Ga. — Hideki Matsuyama’s first swing within the closing spherical of the eighty fifth Masters was an ugly banana-shape slice that may have regarded acquainted on the nerve-racking first tee of any golf course on this planet.
Matsuyama, who entered Sunday’s fourth spherical with a four-shot lead, hunted down his wayward drive within the left woods and selected an intrepid course, smashing his ball from a mattress of wispy pine straw by way of a slender hole between two bushes. Matsuyama’s caddie, Shota Hayafuji, yelped, “Woo,” which elicited a toothy grin from the usually undemonstrative Matsuyama.
Despite the fact that he bogeyed the primary gap, the tone for his day was set.
A teenage golf prodigy in Japan who has lengthy been anticipated to interrupt by way of on golf’s greatest stage, Matsuyama, 29, fearlessly charged the daunting Augusta Nationwide Golf Membership structure on Sunday to construct a commanding lead. Even with three unsteady bogeys within the closing holes, he persevered with a gutsy final-round 73 to win the 2021 Masters by one stroke and develop into the match’s first Asian-born champion.
Matsuyama, who completed 10 beneath par for the match, can be the primary Japanese man to win a significant golf championship. Will Zalatoris completed second and Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth tied for third place at seven beneath par.
Matsuyama’s groundbreaking victory will make him a nationwide hero in golf-crazy Japan, which has had a wealthy historical past of manufacturing world-class male golfers who’ve come near profitable a significant championship over the previous a number of a long time however have fallen quick. Two Japanese girls have received main golf championships. Matsuyama’s breakthrough comes at a time of unrest over racially focused violence towards Asian and Asian-Individuals.
Matsuyama, who had the low rating for an beginner on the 2011 Masters, was ranked as excessive as second on this planet 4 years in the past, however abruptly fell right into a hunch. Till Sunday, he had not received a match since 2017 and his rating had slipped to twenty fifth worldwide.
However after a glowing 65 within the third spherical Saturday — he had an eagle and 4 birdies in his closing eight holes — Matsuyama got here into the ultimate spherical with a heathy cushion atop the leaderboard. He was regular from the beginning on Sunday, even after the opening-hole bogey. He rebounded with a birdie on the second then reeled off 5 pars beneath the crucible of a Masters Sunday.
By then, Matsuyama had a five-shot lead over his rivals. He was cruising till he got here to the par-5 fifteenth gap when his second shot bounced over the inexperienced and into the water behind the outlet. Taking a penalty stroke, Matsuyama prudently chipped to the perimeter of the inexperienced and two-putted for a bogey.
Schauffele, enjoying with Matsuyama, pulled to inside two strokes of the lead with a birdie. However on the pivotal par-3 sixteenth gap, Schauffele’s tee shot was quick and dribbled right into a greenside pond. Schauffele would finally make a triple bogey whereas Matsuyama three-putted for bogey, dropping him to 11 beneath for the match.
The flip of occasions made the Masters rookie Zalatoris Matsuyama’s closest pursuer, particularly after Zalatoris made a prolonged, downhill par putt on the 18th gap to complete the ultimate spherical at 9 beneath par, simply two strokes behind Matsuyama.
With two holes left to play, Matsuyama hit an excellent drive in the course of the seventeenth fairway, launched an ideal wedge shot to the center of the inexperienced and two-putted for par. On the 18th gap, he hit one other excellent drive however his strategy shot pale and landed within the greenside bunker to the fitting of the inexperienced. His restoration from the sand stopped 6 toes from the outlet, however two putts nonetheless gave him the championship.
Matsuyama, who’s often trailed by a big gaggle of media members from Japan at each occasion he performs worldwide, could have benefited from the restrictions on worldwide journey in the course of the pandemic at this 12 months’s Masters. Few reporters from Japan may attend the 2021 Masters. When requested Saturday night time if a diminished media presence was useful to him, Matsuyama smiled.
“It’s not my favourite factor to do, to face and reply questions,” Matsuyama stated by way of a interpreter. He stated he understood the position of reporters at occasions, however conceded: “With fewer media, it’s been quite a bit much less demanding for me.”