AUGUSTA, Georgia: Hideki Matsuyama won the 85th edition of The Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on Sunday to become the first player from Japan to win a men’s Major championship.
The 29-year-old finished a shot ahead of American rookie Will Zalatoris, after carding a final-round one-over-par 73 for a tournament total of 10-under. In Matsuyama’s homeland, it was 8 o’clock on Monday morning, rush hour, as an achievement that was decades in the making finally came to pass.
Chako Higuchi, in the 1977 LPGA Championship, and Hinako Shibuno in the 2019 Women’s British Open, had solved the major puzzle on the women’s side, yet it had remained on the table, pieces missing, for Japanese men.
Matsuyama also became only the second Asian-born player to triumph in a Major – after South Korean YE Yang’s victory in the 2009 US PGA Championship.
Matsuyama started the final day with a four-stroke advantage over four golfers — England’s Justin Rose, Australia’s Marc Leishman and Americans Xander Schauffele and Zalatoris.
He survived some mistakes late on, and a challenge from Schauffele, to claim the Green Jacket in thrilling circumstances.
Schauffele fired four straight birdies before his bid for honours ended with a triple-bogey on the par-three 16th.
“I felt nervous from the start of the day and right through until the end,” said Matsuyama.
“I was thinking about [my family] all the way around. I’m really happy I was able to play well for them.”
“Hopefully I’ll be a pioneer and many other Japanese will follow,” said the Japanese star, winner of five titles on the PGA Tour and eight on the Japan Golf Tour.
“It’s thrilling to think there are a lot of youngsters in Japan watching today. Hopefully in five, 10 years, when they get a little older, some of them will be competing on the world stage.”
The outcome repeated the scenario of last week’s Augusta National Women’s Amateur when Tsubasa Kajitani, 17, of Japan, edged Emilia Migliaccio, a senior at Wake Forest, for the title.