Matsuyama Triumphs at the Masters
Oscar Young reviews Hideki Matsuyama’s historic victory at Augusta.
Hideki Matsuyama emerged victorious on Sunday at Augusta National, fighting off the competition to win the 85thMasters by one stroke. As a result, he becomes the first Japanese man to win one of golf’s major titles.
Matsuyama entered the final day of play at 11 under par, thanks to a tournament best round of 65 on Saturday. He led by four shots with 18 holes left to play, establishing him as the clear favourite. There was still time for some late drama, as the Japanese man experienced late pressure from both Xander Schauffele and debutant Will Zalatoris, who was able to finish just one shot back.
Schauffele, with his playing partner Matsuyama watching on, made four consecutive birdies and momentarily cut the lead to two at the 15th hole. However, that was short-lived as his 16th tee shot found the water short of the green, leading to a triple-bogey six that effectively ended his challenge.
Matsuyama managed to keep his ball dry and stayed in control from then onwards. Despite four bogeys on the back nine, his work up to then ensured he would never relinquish the lead. Walking up the famous 18th hole to the applause of the crowd, he would need just two putts to win his first Green Jacket.
Zalatoris, playing at his first Masters, impressed as the only competitor able to go under par on each of his four rounds. He finished second at -9 and has risen 19 spots in the world golf rankings as a result.
Britain’s Justin Rose was fast out of the gates, taking the overall lead at the end of both day one and two at seven under par. However, his hopes dissolved over the course of a final round 74, which he put down to his ‘putter going cold.’
2015 Champion Jordan Spieth continued his recent career resurgence with a top-3 overall finish at -7. Spieth had not had a tournament win in almost four years until his victory two weeks ago at the Valero Texas Open. Even though a second Green Jacket evaded him this weekend, a consistent 2021 so far puts him on an upward trajectory that will see him among the favourites for this year’s three other majors, after his much-needed return to form.
Spaniard Jon Rahm shot three consecutive even par rounds to open his competition, leaving him out of the running for a victory. However, he ended by showing why he is the current third ranked golfer, carding a 66 on Sunday to close the week with a top-5 finish. Rahm is still pursuing his first major win and will hope to end that duck as the year continues
The hard-hitting Bryson DeChambeau was among the favourites entering the week but finished at 5 over par for a top-46 finish. He made the cut, but struggled on the weekend rounds, scoring 75 twice.
Notable names that missed the cut on Friday include world number one Dustin Johnson and Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy, whose Augusta woes continued. McIlroy is still searching for the elusive career grand slam – the Masters being the one major that still evades him.
This is not the first time Matsuyama has tasted success at Augusta. Ten years ago, he was awarded the Silver Cup for being the leading amateur at the 2011 Masters. Now, he has claimed his first major victory. It was a successful two weeks at Augusta for the Japanese, with his compatriot Tsubasa Kajitani triumphing in the second ever Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Golf has enjoyed an increasing reach in Asia over the previous decade, an effect that will only be compounded by Matsuyama’s Masters victory. Tiger Woods, notably missing from the week after February’s car crash, tweeted his support for Matsuyama from home, saying that Hideki was ‘making Japan proud.’
The absence of Tiger, the five-time Masters Champion, was not the only unusual part about the week. After the previous year’s tournament was delayed for seven months due to COVID-19, this year saw the return of spectators in limited numbers. Only around 12,000 of Augusta’s ‘patrons’ were given access to the course per day, down from nearly 50,000 in a normal year.