The 29-year-old is the first Japanese to triumph in the most prestigious tournament in the world. I closed the 4 days with a shot of advantage over the Californian Zalatoris
Augusta has her hero. His name is Hideki Matsuyama, he is 29 years old and wins Masters number 85 with a score of 278 (69-71-65-73), 10 strokes under par. No Japanese had ever won a major before. And when a week ago, right here, 17-year-old Tsubasa Kajitani triumphed in the Women’s Amateur, he commented: “I would like to follow in her footsteps and make Japan proud of me too.”
Hideki was 19 and still in college at Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai when he played his first Masters and earned an invitation for winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. A few weeks earlier his university was destroyed by a tsunami, but he arrived in Augusta and closed the tournament a shot under par for the twenty-seventh position, best of the amateurs. He entered the Butler Cabin for the usual interview and received the Silver Cup. Ten years later he traveled the Magnolia Lane from number 25 in the world, with five titles in the PGA Tour and nine more, including eight in Japan. And while his colleague Si Woo Kim broke the putter due to the difficulty of the greens (only to use a wood from the ground rather well), he placed a 69 in the opening, second four strokes from the leader. “In so many years never seen greens so hard and fast, it is essential to place the ball on the right side. I played a field that I had never seen before ”.
In his participations in Augusta only a missed cut, then a fifth and a seventh place; also last November he was in position but he hadn’t managed to do better than thirteenth. On Saturday, the one-hour stop due to a thunderstorm (which he spent in the car playing games on his cell phone) opened up a world for him: “From then on I played every shot as I wanted,” he said. Result he earned six in eight holes, 65 on the score and his name at the top of the board with a gap. Four hits on the group. “A new experience for me to start on Sunday morning as a leader”. And with excellent chances of success given the quality of the game (71 worst score of the week). But nothing is said until the last in Augusta. Thus, the most foul part of the final round arrived in the last holes, just as Xander Schauffele got close by putting four birdies in a row before the 16, where however efforts and hopes sank into the lake in front of the green. Another missed opportunity for the 27-year-old Californian: in 2019 he was behind Tiger. Of the Japanese pro he had said: “He is an incredible player of irons and this course suits him perfect”.
It’s a party for the Matsuyama team, the caddy Shota and the coach Hidenori Mezawa who has been following him since the beginning of the year; Bob Turner is also moved, the interpreter of many Masters always at his side because of an interview in English still not spoken. And it’s a holiday for Japan, a country that loves golf and is preparing to receive it for the Olympic Games next summer. The one-shot runner-up is Will Zalatoris, he never let go. 278 (69-71-65-73) his score. Not bad for a 24-year-old rookie (on the Pga Tour and in Augusta) who arrives here six years after Jordan Spieth’s (27) victory. “I’ve known Jordan since I was ten, we used to play at the Bent Tree in Dallas. I remember when he broke the historic record of the field, he was 14 years old. I’ve seen him do amazing things. In Texas he has always raised the bar and Scottie Sheffler and I owe him a lot for this. We could be a nice pair in Ryder Cup, a mix of my long game with its magical chips and putts. ” The US team captain is warned. But the “friend and model” Jordan now ends up behind two shots. Big plays and big messes, with the state of grace on the greens that for now seems to have abandoned it. Justin Rose is lost, already second twice to Augusta. After the playoff against Sergio Garcia in 2017 he said “I put my arm in that green jacket”. Once again he got into position with a great start of 65 and only 28 putts on the score, a difficult average to hold for four days when even the shots on the green begin to falter. Closes seventh with 283 hits. Jon Rham stands out with yesterday’s best lap, a 66 which places him in front of Rose.
Not a good sign for Francesco Molinari when at one point his ball hits the shaft and goes off the green. Three putts immediately follow, and many others miss from short distance in this last round that sees him fall in the standings. A gap that Augusta does not forgive, a blow that in 2019 had allowed him to see a whole other Masters. On the bad final day, some tee-shots were also off the line for a heavy 81st and 52nd place. For Hideki Matsuyama the green jacket and the Masters Trophy, but also a bond with Augusta that lasts forever: the possibility of returning to the field at the Masters for life, a place at the Champions’ Dinner every eve, a reserved space in the locker room and will be billed as Masters’ Champion every time he tees off. And there is also the check. Hard and pure, the Masters does not exhibit its sponsors but the tournament logo. Triumph in merchandising (those who had the ticket but were not selected in the small number of spectators admitted this year, could still access the pro shop of wonders online), which together with the television rights brings gold business. After deducting the expenses, on Saturday the prize money is declared, this year just over nine and a half million: 1,700,000 to the winner, one million per second. Augusta National is now ready to tell a new story next April. Always the second weekend, always the best field ever and an unparalleled test, the same strict rules and tradition with a capital letter to respect. But behind the scenes for the next twelve months, investments and a lot of work to improve a perfection that is all natural only in appearance.
1 (278) Matsuyama 69-71-65-73
2 (279) Zalatoris 70-68-71-70
T3 (281) Spieth 71-68-72-70; Schauffele 72-69-68-72;
T5 (282) Rahm 72-72-72-66; Leishman 72-67-70-73 7 (283) Rose 65-72-72-74
T8 (284) Reed 70-75-70-69; Conners 73-69-68-74
T10 (285) Smith 74-68-73-70; Finau 74-66-73-72
52 (297) Molinari 74-73-69-81
April 12, 2021 (change April 12, 2021 | 08:18)
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In Augusta the Rising Sun appears: Matsuyama triumphs at the Masters