Published on April 11, 2021
Hideki Matsuyama slept on a four-shot 54-hole lead on Saturday night and converted it into a one-stroke Masters victory on Sunday with a 1-over par 73, becoming the first male golfer from Japan to win a major.
Sunday’s final round started with a bang, as Matsuyama’s lead shrank from four shots to just one almost immediately. Two groups ahead of Matsuyama, Will Zalatoris birdied the first two holes, and when Matsuyama made bogey on the first, Zalatoris was within one. But Matsuyama bounced back with a birdie at the second as Zalatoris bogeyed the third to inflate the advantage back to three.
Matsuyama closed the opening nine with birdies on the eighth and ninth to card a 2-under par 34 on the front, getting to 13-under for the tournament. He played it safe throughout the back nine and carded bogeys on the 12th, 15th, 16th and 18th holes, offset by a birdie on the 13th, but still maintained a comfortable lead throughout. After finding a green-side bunker on the 18th, Matsuyama splashed out to within eight feet and needed just two putts from there to secure the green jacket. When his first narrowly missed, he tapped in for bogey and a historic win.
Zalatoris kept Matsuyama within striking distance most of the day, but a shaky start to the second nine was too much to overcome. Zalatoris made a three-putt bogey on the 10th, then missed a par putt from inside six feet on the 12th. He had a long eagle try to get back into the mix on the 13th, but three-putted for a disappointing par. Zalatoris eventually made birdies on the 15th and 17th, giving the Masters rookie a second-place finish.
Zalatoris was one of four players who began the day in a tie for second place at 7-under par, but aside from that fast start, none were able to get closer than within two of Matsuyama. Matsuyama’s playing partner both Saturday and Sunday, Xander Schauffele, was among that group, but stumbled early. Schauffele played the three-hole stretch from the third to the fifth four-over par, capped by a double-bogey on the fifth, to stymie his chances.
Schauffele did, however, make a thrilling attempt at a comeback on the second nine with four consecutive birdies from the 12th to 15th holes to get to 3-under par for the day. When Matsuyama found the water long of the 15th green and carded his second bogey in that same four-hole stretch, Schauffele trailed by just two. But those hoping for a gripping showdown over the final three holes were disappointed when Schauffele hit his tee shot on the 16th into the water before eventually making a triple-bogey to drop out of contention. Schauffele finished with an even-par 72 to finish tied for third with Jordan Spieth.
The other players who started the day tied for second, Marc Leishman and Justin Rose, shot 73 and 74, respectively.
From Low Am to Masters Champion
While the Maters is Matsuyama’s first major championship, it’s not the first time he’s taken hardware home from the tournament. Matsuyama became just the seventh golfer in history to win both low amateur honors at the Masters, and the green jacket. Matsuyama took home low amateur honors at the 2011 Masters after qualifying by virtue of winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in 2010. Matsuyama joins Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Ben Crenshaw and Cary Middlecoff as the seven players in history to win both.
Historic Win for Japan
With the win, Matsuyama became the first man from Japan to win one of golf’s four major championships. He joins two women who have accomplished the feat, Hisako Higuchi, winner of the 1977 LPGA Championship, and Hinako Shibuno, who won the 2019 Women’s British Open. The win comes as the Olympics, including golf, prepare to head to Japan later in 2021.
Image: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images Sport via Getty Images