AUGUSTA, Ga. — The storms that stopped play for a bit greater than hour on Saturday on the Masters had been anticipated. The masterpiece delivered by Hideki Matsuyama after the break was not.
Matsuyama performed the ultimate eight holes in 6-under par, turning a two-shot deficit right into a four-shot lead. With 4 flawless swings and three putts late on the again 9 at Augusta Nationwide, he went from a part of a logjam on the leaderboard to the cusp of changing into the primary Japanese participant to win a significant.
The ultimate contact was an excellent par save from 25 yards behind the 18th inexperienced for a 7-under 65, the one bogey-free spherical this week on the Masters.
“I would not have believed it,” Matsuyama mentioned by his interpreter. “However I did play properly at this time. And my sport plan was carried out, and hopefully, tomorrow I can proceed good kind.”
It began in his automobile, the place the 29-year-old waited out the storm delay. A part of the time was spent enjoying on his telephone. He additionally considered his final shot, a drive into the bushes proper of the eleventh fairway.
“Throughout the rain delay, I simply figured I am unable to hit something worse than that,” Matsuyama mentioned. “And so perhaps it relieved some stress. I do not know. However I did hit it properly coming in.”
It was 10 years in the past when Matsuyama first performed within the Masters because the Asia-Pacific Novice winner. He realized then he might deal with Augusta Nationwide as the one newbie to make the reduce in 2011, ending with the identical rating (1-under 287) as defending champion Phil Mickelson.
Now comes the true check.
“If Hideki performs properly, he can management his personal future, I suppose,” Leishman mentioned. “However rather a lot can occur round right here. I’ve seen what can occur. I’ve had unhealthy rounds right here myself, and I’ve had good rounds. You may make up 4 photographs pretty shortly, however you need to do plenty of issues proper to do this.”
Matsuyama did nearly all the things proper, beginning together with his first shot after the delay — a 7-iron he punched beneath the bushes and onto an eleventh inexperienced barely slowed by the moisture to twenty ft for birdie.
After his birdie from 10 ft on the twelfth, Augusta Nationwide got here to life. Think about the roars if there had been a full capability of spectators.
In a sequence that took not more than two minutes, Schauffele ran in a 60-foot eagle putt throughout the fifteenth inexperienced to momentarily tie for the lead at 7 beneath; and again on the twelfth, Rose made a 25-foot putt for his first birdie for the reason that second gap, giving him the lead at 8 beneath.
That lasted so long as it took Matsuyama to money in on his 5-iron to the fifteenth by making a 5-foot eagle putt to succeed in 9 beneath, his first time within the lead. And nobody might sustain.
“I have been enjoying with the lead the entire week, and clearly, there’s been an hour the place Hideki has form of moved on the market in entrance,” Rose mentioned. “All the blokes chasing at 7-under par are all able to that little run Hideki has had. So, it is all up for grabs tomorrow.”
Matsuyama adopted with an 8-iron to five ft to the entrance proper shelf on the par-3 sixteenth for birdie, and his pitching wedge to the again pin on the seventeenth had sufficient spin to settle 10 ft from the opening for one more.
Corey Conners had a hole-in-one on No. 6 in a 68 and was at 6-under 210. Jordan Spieth was inside two photographs of the lead regardless of a double bogey on the seventh gap, however he could not preserve tempo and shot 72 to fall six photographs behind.
Matsuyama will play within the last group with Schauffele, a snug pairing. Schauffele’s mom was raised in Japan, and he speaks sufficient Japanese to have shared a number of laughs with Matsuyama throughout Saturday’s pairing.
That will not get rid of all of the stress. A serious is on the road, and no different course than Augusta Nationwide is able to serving up surprises.
Matsuyama’s lone shot at a significant was at Quail Hole within the 2017 PGA Championship when he was one shot behind with three holes to play and missed a vital par putt. He was in tears after that spherical, a participant beneath huge stress in Japan, the place golf is extraordinarily widespread.
Matsuyama wasn’t the primary Japanese star of his era — that was shut buddy Ryo Ishikawa — however he’s by far probably the most achieved. Matsuyama has 14 worldwide wins, together with 5 on the PGA Tour. He has reached as excessive as No. 2 on the planet.
Matsuyama hardly ever can go anyplace on the PGA Tour and not using a dozen or extra Japanese media following. Their numbers are restricted this 12 months due to COVID-19 journey restrictions.
“Being in entrance of the media remains to be troublesome. It is not my favourite factor to do,” Matsuyama mentioned by his interpreter. “It has been rather a lot much less stress for me. I’ve loved this week.”
A victory would give Japan a sweep this week. Tsubasa Kajitani gained the Augusta Nationwide Girls’s Novice final Saturday.
“I wasn’t capable of watch it. I used to be enjoying final week in Texas,” Matsuyama mentioned. “It was unbelievable. I hope I can observe in her sneakers and make Japan proud.”