Led by Japan’s prime minister Yoshihide Suga, the country celebrated golfer Hideki Matsuyama’s triumph in the 85th Masters Tournament — the first Japanese player to succeed at a major golf championship Augusta National and pull on the popular green jacket. The onetime No. 2 in the world currently has a handful of worldwide successes, eight career major top-10s, and four Presidents Cup appearances.
On Sunday, Hideki Matsuyama (松山 英樹), pioneering a path began by any semblance of Jumbo Ozaki, Isao Aoki, and Tommy Nakajima before him, finished the Japanese drought, winning the Masters.
Slipping on the green jacket has been a decade in the making for Hideki Matsuyama, who since the time winning low amateur here at Augusta in 2011 has carried the playing golf any desires for a country on his shoulders. It’s a pressure that Matsuyama can’t keep away from, or at least not during normal times.
Any place he goes, Japanese media are independently focussed on him. It’s ever-present, regardless of whether he completes first, last, or somewhere in the middle. Also, it’s not something he generally appreciates. Coronavirus and its travel limitations, notwithstanding, have provided him with somewhat a respite this week.
“Being in front of the media is still difficult. I’m glad the media are here covering it, but it’s not my favorite thing to do, to stand and answer questions,” he said after Saturday’s round. “And so with fewer media, it’s been a lot less stressful for me, and I’ve enjoyed this week.”
Hideki Matsuyama, 29, begun the final round leading the pack by four, saw Will Zalatoris trim it to a single stroke from the beginning Sunday and afterward did what he’s done throughout the week — hit fairways, give himself birdie opportunities and let every other person waste things up behind him.
The solitary hiccup came at 15 when Hideki Matsuyama sent an alarm that probably resounded right across The Land of the Rising Sun. Leading by four with simply four to play, Matsuyama required only to keep away from disaster to guarantee the green jacket when … disaster almost struck. He flew his second shot on the par-5 over the green and into the close by water. A bogey combined with playing partner Xander Schauffele’s birdie managed the lead to two.
Schauffele, himself a significant champ really taking shape, took all that momentum to the par-3 16th and instantly plunked his tee shot into the water, at that point flew his third over the green, hit his fourth on, and two-putted for a triple-bogey six.
The Japanese golf player completed in front of Will Zalatoris in second to guarantee his first major. He shot a final-round 73 to get done with a score of 10 under par, one shot in front of the American runner-up.
The 29-year-old was grouped among his competitors before an hour-long weather delay on Saturday before he catapulted himself into the lead in the third round with some scintillating golf.
In the exceedingly significant fourth round on Sunday, Hideki Matsuyama held off early tests from Zalatoris and a late push from Xander Schauffele, in which the two players discovered the water, before guiding himself to triumph.
“I was coming hot,” Schauffele said after. “… I hit a good shot, I committed to it, it turned out bad.”
Anyway high the pressure tightened up on Hideki Matsuyama between the 15th green and 16th tee had unexpectedly been alleviated.
Zalatoris, the rookie who never broke, kept some level of pressure applied. A birdie on 18 pushed him to 9-under, two back of Hideki Matsuyama at that point.
Hideki Matsuyama would give one back, yet not two.
Par. Bogey. Green jacket. Drought no more.
In winning the popular golf competition, Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese man to win a golf major and finished an almost four-year winless drought.
As is custom, a year ago’s winner Dustin Johnson – who failed to cut for the current year in the wake of suffering his own battles – gave Hideki Matsuyama his Green Jacket which scratched him into Masters and playing golf folklore.
Sitting close by Johnson and his translator in Butler Cabin, where champions get their Green Jackets, Matsuyama communicated his satisfaction that he could pioneer a path for other future Japanese golf players.
“I’m really happy,” he said. “My nerves really didn’t start on the second nine. It was right from the start today and right to the very last putt. I was thinking about (my family) all the way round today and I’m really happy I played well for them. Hopefully, I’ll be a pioneer and many other Japanese people will follow. I’m glad to be able to open the flood gates hopefully and many more will follow me.”
“It was really wonderful,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said with his country struggling to pull off the postponed Tokyo Olympics in just over three months. “As the coronavirus drags on, his achievement moved our hearts and gave us courage.”
Masashi “Jumbo” Ozaki, who tied for eighth in the Masters in 1973, said he trusted more Japanese male golf players would be enlivened by Hideki Matsuyama.
“This is a great achievement for the Japanese golf world,” he said in comments on Japanese media. “And it came about because of Mr. Matsuyama’s own ability to take up challenges, his courage, and all the effort that went into that.”
Isao Aoki completed second to Jack Nicklaus in the 1980 U.S. Open, the past best finish by a Japanese male golf player in a major.
Two Japanese women have won golf majors: Chako Higuchi at the 1977 LPGA Championship and Hinako Shibuno at the 2019 Women’s British Open.
Isao Aoki reviewed how Hideki Matsuyama won the low amateur title in the 2011 Masters only weeks after the earthquake, wave, and the meltdown of three nuclear reactors devastated the northeastern Fukushima area of Japan.
Around 18,000 individuals passed on in the disaster and the region is as yet attempting to recuperate.
“This time, your Masters win came at a time when many people were feeling down, with many activities restricted in Japan amid a coronavirus pandemic, and you gave hope to so many people,” Isao Aoki said in comments carried online in Japanese in Golf Digest.
Isao Aoki added: “This win, which was the first for a Japanese as well as an Asian, was a moment we were all waiting for, not just myself but all the Japanese golf fans and those involved in the golf world.”
The U.S. Embassy in Japan sent its congrats to Hideki Matsuyama as “the first Japanese golfer to win The Masters.”
Outside the busy Shimbashi train station in focal Tokyo, retired laborer Takashi Atsumi called it a “tremendous result.”
“For him, I think it was a goal that was hard to reach despite his tremendous efforts over the past 10 years,” Takashi Atsumi said. “I think it’s absolutely fantastic that he was able to achieve the goal today. I think he set a great milestone for the next generation of Japanese people.”