On Sunday at Augusta National, Hideki Matsuyama made history as the first male player from Japan to win one of golf’s major championships.
The 29-year-old became the first Japanese golfer to receive the legendary green jacket at The Masters. In addition, he is the first Japanese-born player to ever win one of the PGA’s four major tournaments. Furthermore, it is only the second time a male from an Asian country has won a major championship.
Matsuyama took a four-shot lead into Sunday’s final round at the 2021 Masters Tournament. However, within 15 minutes of teeing off, the golfer’s lead dissolved to just one stroke. After hitting into the trees on the first hole and bogeying No. 1, he bounced back with a birdie on No. 2. Yet Will Zalatoris’ hot start with back-to-back birdies put him right on the heels of Matsuyama.
The pair battled it out throughout the early part of the day, but Matsuyama’s consistent play kept him on top of the leaderboard. As the players hit the second nine at Augusta, the Japanese golfer regained a five-stroke lead, and didn’t look back.
But things became interesting late, as Xander Schauffele came storming to within two strokes of Matsuyama. After a double-bogey on 16, Schauffele fell to 3rd place, giving Zalatoris sole possession of 2nd place at -9.
Matsuyama secured the win after posting a -10 score. Last year’s winner Dustin Johnson helped Hideki Matsuyama into his green jacket as the newest champion of The Masters.
Hideki Matsuyama’s 2011 Masters Debut Helped Him Make History in 2021
Now, nearly a decade after his Masters debut as a 19-year-old amateur, Matsuyama has won one of golf’s most prized tournaments. Ten years ago, he shot a 68 on Day 3 on the way to a top 30 finish. The strong performance earned him the Silver Cup – awarded to the leading amateur in 2011. At the time, he called the Saturday round “a round I’ll never forget.”
“Because of that round, it gave me the confidence that I could play here, I could play professional golf as a career,” Matsuyama said, according to a PGA Tour article.
The Japanese golfer is already a star in his home country. Numerous media members from Japan chronicle his every move at each tournament. Yet with COVID-19 travel restrictions in place, press numbers have been reduced during the last two tournaments at Augusta National. For the 29-year-old, it’s been a welcome change to the normal spotlight that follows him at each course. In fact, after his astounding third-round score of 65, it sounds like some of the pressure was lifted from his shoulders.
“I’m not sure how to answer this in a good way. But being in front of the media is still difficult,” Matsuyama said through a translator on Saturday to the media.
“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,” he added.
Although he’s had fewer media to deal with this weekend, it’s safe to assume he’s about to get more attention than ever before after his historic Masters victory. Matsuyama is already a star in Japan, but he’ll return home a national hero adorned in a green jacket very soon.