Japan's Matsuyama hangs on to make history with Masters win
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[April 12, 2021]
By Andrew Both
AUGUSTA, Ga. (Reuters) - Hideki
Matsuyama overcame a potentially ruinous moment to become the first
Japanese man to win a major championship with a one-shot Masters
victory over Will Zalatoris at Augusta National on Sunday.
Matsuyama, who started the day with a four-shot lead over a quartet
that included playing competitor Xander Schauffele and Masters
debutant Zalatoris, carded a one-over-par 73 that left him at 10
under on the week at the year's first major.
"Hopefully I'll be a pioneer and many other Japanese will follow,"
Matsuyama said through an interpreter inside Butler Cabin where he
was presented with the champion's famous Green Jacket. "I am glad to
open the floodgates hopefully and many more will follow me."
The 29-year-old was seemingly in control until a bogey at the
par-five 15th, where his approach shot went in the water behind the
green, compounded with a birdie from Schauffele turned his
four-stroke cushion into a two-shot lead.
But world number six Schauffele put his tee shot at the par-three
16th into the water and made triple-bogey to fall out of contention.
He finished three shots back of Matsuyama and in a two-way share of
third with former champion Jordan Spieth (70).
"I was coming in hot, I was feeling good," said Schauffele, who made
four consecutive birdies starting at the par-three 12th. "Hideki
surprisingly went for the green on 15 so I felt like he gave me a
little bit of hope there and maybe (I was) a little hyper-aggressive
there on 16."
Matsuyama bogeyed the 16th which left him with a two-shot lead over
Zalatoris (70), who was already in the clubhouse at nine under on
the week, and went on to close the deal with a par-bogey finish.
"Making Japan proud Hideki," five-times Masters champion Tiger
Woods, who is home recovering from serious leg injuries suffered in
a February car crash, wrote on Twitter.
"Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment for you and your
country. This historical @TheMasters win will impact the entire golf
Speaking to reporters on Monday morning in Tokyo, Japanese Prime
Minister Yoshihide Suga called Matsuyama's historic win "wonderful"
and a source of pride and courage for the Japanese people during the
difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"He's also a graduate of a university in Tohoku," Suga said,
referring to the northeastern region of Japan devastated by the
massive earthquake and tsunami 10 years ago. "(His win) has also
provided a big boost to the recovery from the disasters."
The victory by Matsuyama came in his 33rd major championship
appearance and ended Zalatoris's impressive bid to become the first
Masters debutant to win a Green Jacket since Fuzzy Zoeller
accomplished the feat in 1979.
[to top of second column]
Japan's Hideki Matsuyama
has his green jacket put on by previous winner Dustin Johnson of the
U.S. after winning The Masters REUTERS/Mike Segar TPX IMAGES OF THE
Zalatoris was up for the challenge early but faltered after the turn
as he three-putted for bogey at the par-four 10th, dropped another
stroke at par-three 12th and then failed to cash in at the par-five
13th where he three-putted for par.
But Zalatoris did not give up and carded two birdies over the
closing four holes to finish alone in second, describing his debut
as "an absolute treat".
"The fact I put myself in contention and was able to handle it and
be in the final group in my third major in my entire career is
obviously really exciting."
Matsuyama had made a shaky start with a bogey at the first hole that
cut his lead to one stroke but made three birdies before the turn,
including at both par-fives, to restore control.
Matsuyama bogeyed the 12th where he failed to get up and down from a
back bunker but tapped in for birdie at the par-five 13th and was
looking set for a comfortable finish.
But Matsuyama said he never allowed himself to think the Green
Jacket was his until his tee shot at the par-four 18th final hole
found the fairway.
"My nerves really didn't start on the second nine," said Matsuyama.
"It was right from the start today and right to the very last putt."
World number three Jon Rahm, whose wife gave birth to their first
child last weekend, carded the day's low round, a six-under-par 66,
vaulting him into a share of fifth place.
Englishman Justin Rose (74), who held the outright lead after the
first and second rounds, and Australian Marc Leishman (73) also
started the day four shots back of Matsuyama but fell out of
contention before they reached the turn.
(Reporting by Andrew Both; Additional reporting by Chang-Ran Kim in
Tokyo; Writing by Frank Pingue; Editing by Pritha Sarkar, Jacqueline
Wong, Himani Sarkar and Lincoln Feas.)
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