AUGUSTA, Ga. — On the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hole, after Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama led on the flip after which bogeyed 5 of the ultimate 9 holes to complete in a tie for fifth, he buried his head in his fingers and cried after an interview with a Japanese reporter.
Even on the age of 25, Matsuyama felt the burden of making an attempt to turn out to be the primary male golfer from his nation to win a serious championship.
Matsuyama carries that weight no extra.
In Sunday’s last spherical of the eighty fifth Masters at Augusta Nationwide, he turned the primary Japanese man to win considered one of golf’s majors with a last spherical of 1-over 73 to beat Will Zalatoris by one shot.
Matsuyama, 29, is the primary participant from an Asian nation to win the Masters and the second to win a serious; the primary was South Korea’s Y.E. Yang within the 2009 PGA Championship.
In a Masters with out five-time champion Tiger Woods, who’s recovering from serious injuries suffered in a February automobile wreck, and that was lacking defending champion Dustin Johnson and stars Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka after the 36-hole lower, one of many sport’s most nameless and personal gamers used his stellar iron play and shocking placing prowess to seize the inexperienced jacket.
After Matsuyama blistered Augusta Nationwide’s second 9 with a 6-under 30 within the third spherical to hold a 4-shot lead into Sunday, his first anxious second got here on the primary tee, when he pushed his tee shot into the bushes and made bogey.
Matsuyama, the Twenty fifth-ranked participant on this planet, shortly steadied himself with a birdie on the par-5 second gap. By the sixth gap, only one participant was inside 4 photographs of him — that was Will Zalatoris, taking part in in his first Masters. Matsuyama constructed a 5-shot lead with consecutive birdies on Nos. 8 and 9.
Later, he hit his second shot into the water on the par-5 fifteenth. His lead shrunk to 2 photographs with three to play. However he steadied himself to get the job accomplished.
It’s Matsuyama’s second journey to Augusta Nationwide’s Butler Cabin, the place the inexperienced jacket is first introduced to the winner. A decade in the past, after he gained the inaugural Asia-Pacific Beginner in 2010, he completed because the low novice on the 2011 Masters. He obtained the Silver Cup whereas sitting subsequent to champion Charl Schwartzel.
That dramatic breakthrough got here lower than a month after a devastating earthquake, the strongest recorded in Japan’s historical past, triggered a tsunami with waves as much as 132 ft. The magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred undersea about 81 miles east of Matsuyama’s adopted hometown of Sendai, on the northern a part of the island of Honshu.
Matsuyama, 19 on the time, was coaching in Australia when the earthquake and tsunami hit. It left 450,000 individuals homeless, killed 19,300 and destroyed an estimated 120,000 buildings. It additionally brought about the meltdown of three nuclear reactors.
When Matsuyama returned house, he discovered his dormitory at Tohoku Fukushi College in ruins. He could not contact his household and buddies for weeks and struggled to seek out meals to eat. He practically declined that first Masters invitation to assist with reduction efforts.
“Actually, hundreds of lives have been misplaced, and there are nonetheless lots of people lacking,” Matsuyama stated by means of an interpreter in 2011. “Infrastructure remains to be within the restoration course of and plenty of the inhabitants are compelled to dwell in emergency reduction locations. I’m from the Tohoku area, and figuring out such a tough state of affairs again house, I’m not certain if I ought to play on the Masters even at this very second. Nonetheless, I’ve determined to play. I want to do my greatest to supply the Japanese individuals with encouragement.””
In his first look as an novice at Augusta Nationwide, he carded a 4-under 68 within the third spherical en path to ending in a tie for twenty seventh.
Matsuyama stated his efficiency “was a direct impact of the individuals of Japan within the Sendai space rooting for me and inspiring me.”
“I felt their spirits all through the occasion,” he stated.
Matsuyama is without doubt one of the most revered athletes in a rustic through which baseball and sumo wrestling are extra common than golf. He was taught the sport by his father, who owns a driving vary. In 2011, he beat Schwartezl and different professionals as an novice within the Taiheiyo Masters with an eagle on the ultimate gap. Two years later, he gained 4 occasions on the Japan Golf Tour and have become the primary rookie to assert the tour’s cash title.
Matsuyama’s victory on Sunday on the Masters was his sixth since qualifying for the PGA Tour in 2014.
“He is a bit like a Tiger Woods [is] to the remainder of the world, Hideki in Japan,” stated Adam Scott, who in 2013 turned the primary Australian to win the Masters.
Little is understood about Matsuyama’s private life — and that is the way in which he likes it. In August 2017, a few weeks after his back-nine meltdown on the PGA Championship, Matsuyama’s administration firm unexpectedly introduced that he had married eight months earlier. His spouse, Mei, gave delivery to their first little one, a daughter named Kanna, in July 2017.
“So far as the household and privateness, nobody actually requested me if I used to be married, so I did not need to reply that query,” Matsuyama stated.
Matsuyama makes use of an interpreter throughout interviews with English-speaking reporters and is reserved. Throughout Saturday’s rain delay of greater than an hour, whereas different gamers huddled and chatted in Augusta Nationwide’s clubhouse and caddie shack, Matsuyama remained in his automobile taking part in video games on his telephone.
“I believe [it’s] partly his character,” Scott stated. “I believe he is actually dwelling in his personal world a bit, and partly the language barrier he has over right here. I believe he in all probability is aware of a little bit extra English than he lets on, but it surely’s simple for him to type of put the blinkers on and actually not get distracted by a lot noise.”
In the course of the previous few seasons, about 20 reporters from Japanese media shops have routinely adopted Matsuyama to each PGA Tour occasion. Due to COVID-19 journey restrictions, there have been solely a handful on the Masters this week. Matsuyama appeared to take pleasure in being out of the highlight for a change.
“Once I was there for the Zozo [Championship in Chiba, Japan] final 12 months, the individuals watching him and Tiger, it was like a serious,” stated Mexico’s Abraham Ancer. “So for him to get this W, it is big for Japan. I had no thought how massive the next was of golf down there, and it was superb. Had a good time over there, and it will imply the world I am certain for all of the Japanese individuals for him to win.”
Japan has been ready at the least 85 years for a serious winner in males’s golf. The nation despatched its first golfer to the Masters in 1936, the third 12 months of its existence, when Chick Chin completed in a tie for twentieth. Beginning in 1968, there was at the least one Japanese golfer in each version of the Masters.
Till Sunday, none of them had ever slipped on a inexperienced jacket.
“He is the one they have been ready for,” Scott as soon as stated.
And now, he and Japan wait no extra.