Matsuyama becomes first Japanese in Masters green jacket – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) – The pressure was even greater than Hideki Matsuyama could have imagined when he was on the first tee at Augusta National on Sunday. That was the emotion when he walked off the 18th green as the first Masters champion from golf-loving Japan.

With his arms firmly in the sleeves of the green jacket, he pushed them up in the air.

Ten years after his debut as the best amateur in the Masters, 29-year-old Matsuyama won the ultimate award and took his place in history.

Whether he is Japan’s greatest player is not his concern.

“I’m the first to win a major, though,” he said through his interpreter. “And if that’s the benchmark, then I’ve set it.”

The nerves stayed with Matsuyama from the moment he shot his first tee into the trees to successive birdies that resulted in a 6-shot lead that led to some nervous moments at the end when Xander Schauffele ran late to him.

It was only when he buckled his ride down the 18th fairway and turned the club in his hands that he could feel that victory was in his hand. He’s played so well for so long that three bogeys over the last four holes made this Masters look closer than it was.

He finished with a 1-over-73 for a one-shot win over Masters rookie Will Zalatoris (70).

Schauffele ran away from four straight birdies to play three holes within two strokes, then hit par 3-16 8 irons into the water for a triple bogey that ended his hopes. He shot a 72 with a triple bogey and a double bogey on his card and finished third with Jordan Spieth (70).

“Man, he was something else. He played the way a winner has to play, ”said Schauffele. “Sixteen, I really would have liked to have put more pressure on him, but basically he gave him the tournament at that point.”

Then his mind turned to the significance of what Matsuyama had achieved. Schauffele’s mother grew up in Japan and his grandparents still live there.

“Nobody really wants to talk about how much pressure is being put on them,” said Schauffele. “You look at the media that follow him. You see what he’s done in his career. He’s a high level player with a lot of pressure on him and that’s the hardest way to play. He can do it. “

And he did it.

The emotion for a player who says so little has never been more evident. Just before Dustin Johnson helped him into the green jacket, Matsuyama didn’t need an interpreter in the Butler Cabin when he said in English, “I’m really happy.”

This performance was so masterful that Matsuyama extended his lead to six shots over the back nine, up to a few dramatic moments. With a lead of four strokes he went on the 15th par on the green in two parts and it jumped hard from the back slope into the pond at the 16th hole.

Matsuyama did well to walk away with bogey, and when Schauffele made a fourth straight birdie, the lead was reduced to two shots. And then it was over.

Schauffele was in the water. Matsuyama made a safe par on the 17th and tore one down in the middle of the 18th fairway. He bogeyed out of the bunker to land at 10 under 278 and soaked the moment with a few thousand viewers to celebrate a career changing moment.

Spieth competed in Japan and played alongside Matsuyama on his home turf. It could be referring to a four-shot lead that Spieth had when he won the Masters in 2015. It cannot relate to the expectations of an entire country.

“He’s under a lot of pressure,” said Spieth. “I remember the feeling of a four-shot lead and he has Japan on his back and maybe Asia on his back. I can’t imagine how that tried to sleep on it, even with someone who had so much success. “

Matsuyama won the 15th time worldwide and it was his sixth PGA Tour title. He had completed 93 tournaments without a win, the longest drought for a Masters champion since 1987, and was ranked 14th in the world.

He is the second man from an Asian country to win a major. YE Yang of South Korea won the 2009 PGA Championship in Hazeltine against Tiger Woods.

Matsuyama won in Japan as an amateur and four times after graduating from college and turned pro in 2013.

His first PGA Tour win was at Memorial in 2014, which led tournament promoter Jack Nicklaus to say, “I think you have just seen the start of a really great player in your world for the next 10 to 15 years. ”

That moment came Sunday.

Matsuyama is not very emotional, and even less speaks, even when cornered by the large contingent of Japanese media after each round.

Most of the media was absent this year due to travel restrictions for COVID-19, and Matsuyama had said the night before the finals that it was much less stressful.

There was a lot to do on the golf course from the start.

“I felt really good walking down the first tee until I got on the first tee and then I realized that I was in the last group of the Masters tournament and with four strokes I would be the leader. And then I was really nervous, ”he said. “But I caught myself. And the plan today was just to go out there and do my best for 18 holes. And so I thought all day, just do my best. “

Matsuyama sent his first tee shot into the trees to the right of the first fairway. He knocked it out of the pine straw under the trees, hit a soft field that rolled the slope away from the pin, and was glad to go bogey. Zalatoris opened two groups in front of him with two straight birdies.

Just like that, the tour was reduced to one. Matsuyama quickly restored his pillow, making it through the toughest stretch of the top nine when everyone around him fired on shots. He had a five-shot lead, and Schauffele was the only one who had a serious chance in the end.

He’s the first winner with an above-average finals since Trevor Immelman in 2008. Doesn’t matter. Matsuyama is the Masters Champion, a major that defines its elite status in the game and gives Japan the biggest week it has ever had in April.

It started a week ago on Saturday when Tsubasa Kajitani won the second Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Matsuyama wasn’t there to see it, but he was very aware of it. He just wanted to follow their path and made Japan proud.

His piece spoke volumes. So was his reaction.

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