• December 10, 2023

Masters 2021: Hideki Matsuyama claims one-shot victory at Augusta National

-10 H Matsuyama (Jpn); -9 W Zalatoris (USA); -7 J Spieth (USA), X Schauffele (USA); -6 J. Rahm (Spa), M. Leishman (Aus); -5 J Rose (Eng); -4 P Reed (USA), C Conners (Can)
Selected others: -2 R MacIntyre (Sco); -1 T Hatton (Eng); level S Lowry (Irish); +1 P Casey (Eng), I Poulter (Eng); +2 M. Fitzpatrick (Eng), M. Wallace (Eng); +5 B DeChambeau (USA)

Hideki Matsuyama held off the field to win the Masters at Augusta National in one fell swoop and became the first Japanese to win a major title.

Matsuyama was four strokes ahead of the final day and despite some nervous moments, shot a one-over-73 win on Sunday to win to 10 under par.

American debutant Will Zalatoris was among his closest challengers at nine.

Englishman Justin Rose, who led two rounds, faded in the final 18 holes with a two-over-74 to finish five under.

Xander Schauffele, who played with Matsuyama, screwed the 15th to close within two shots but hit his tee shot in the water on the 16th when his challenge ended with a triple bogey six.

He finished in third place with his compatriot and 2015 champion Jordan Spieth at seven under par.

Number three in the Spanish world, Jon Rahm, was one more deficit on the last day of 66, along with Australian Marc Leishman.

The Scot Robert MacIntyre impressed on his debut and finished 12th with two below average places to secure his place at the Masters next year.

I am happy to open the floodgates – Matsuyama in the historic victory

A decade since Matsuyama was awarded the Silver Cup as the leading amateur at the 2011 Masters, the 29-year-old has returned to claim a win that will be well received in his home country.

Japan produced great champions in 1977, LGPA championship winners Hisako Higuchi and Hinako Shibuno, who won the Women’s Open two years ago. The most sought after golfer, however, was Isao Aoki with a second place finish at the 1980 US Open.

“I’m really happy. My nerves really didn’t start with the back nine, it was from the start and right through to the last putt,” said Matsuyama.

“I was thinking of her [friends and family] all the way around. I’m really glad I played well for her. Hopefully I will be a pioneer and many other Japanese players will follow and I am happy to open the floodgates. “

The foundation for Matsuyama’s success was laid on Saturday, returning from a one-hour storm delay to shoot six under par through his final eight holes.

It meant the world’s number 25, who spent the time sitting in his car and playing games on his phone, signed for a staggering 65 that got him off the field to 11 under four.

There was some early nerve on Sunday as Matsuyama sent his inaugural run into the trees, watching his lead drop to one after Zalatoris got a birdie-birdie to go down to nine.

The 24-year-old American, who wanted to be the first debutant since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, appeared as a surprise challenger, but Matsuyama screwed the second, made smart par-pares with three and five, and then completed the top nine with consecutive birdies.

After Zalatoris dropped the shots at 10 and with the Golden Bell at 12, the Japanese player’s advantage was extended to six strokes.

Matsuyama, who hadn’t won the PGA Tour since 2017, could afford to play the 12th par cautiously but was lucky enough not to send his approach to the 13th par 5 green into the azaleas, and continued to fuck the hole.

Playing partner Schauffele seemed to have beaten his challenge with four misses in three holes through three, four and five.

But a run of four birdies that began on the 12th suddenly put pressure on Matsuyama, especially when the leader hit his second shot on the 15th par-5 over the green and into the water on the nearby 16th hole. That resulted in a miss and his advantage was reduced to two.

Schauffele’s grandparents live in Japan, and he says he knows enough of the language to share a joke with Matsuyama, but the American was in no mood for it when his par-3-16 tee shot fell into the water when he did recorded a triple. Bogey six.

That gave Matsuyama the initiative again, despite carding a bogey himself, and he held a two-shot lead towards 18th, where he converted a bogey putt to win the green jacket in front of the patrons gathered around the green.

The former world number two becomes the second Japanese player to claim victory at the iconic Georgia venue in eight days after Tsubasa Kajitani won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last week.

“I only played Augusta in computer games.”

Rose ended with a birdie, which even seemed to surprise itself on par 18

The two-time runner-up Rose opened the tournament with a seven-under-par-65 and maintained this lead through the second round after a level par 72. He shot 72 on Saturday to be four in the group behind Matsuyama as of Sunday.

But he couldn’t keep his offer for a first green jacket when the 40-year-old faded and turned back five.

“I’ve enjoyed the week and it’s a little more proof that I love this golf course and know how to play it,” he said after a round of six bogies and four birdies. “Oddly enough, I felt like I was playing better than I had all week. Only the putter went cold.

“I’m saying nothing really important happens before April. The main season is when it really matters. This is the beginning.

“Every month there is one that I have to prepare for and work for and that is what I will do. This is a confidence boost and there is a lot of evidence that things are going in the right direction.”

MacIntyre, meanwhile, was enjoying his Masters debut and will be back next year after finishing 12th out of two under on the final day with a level par 72, with the top 12 and ties invited to return.

“I have to take the positives,” he said. “I played great on a golf course that I had never seen before. I only played it on computer games with my friends. Now here I am, if I had known this course better, I could have competed up there. “

American Zalatoris also made his debut and continued his impressive rise, finishing the week second for his sixth Top 10 result in 15 starts on the PGA Tour this season, including a sixth place at the US Open last September .

“I’m speechless,” he said. “It’s motivating to miss a shot but it’s exciting to get to the Masters, which I’ve been going to since I was nine,” he said.

“I’ll be back next year and hopefully get better.”

Rahm, who became a dad last week, carded the lap of the day with an impressive 66 bogey-free to drop down to six for his fourth straight top 10 result in Augusta.

The 26-year-old Spaniard is still on the hunt for his first big title but has been below average for 37 overall in that time, better than any other player.

American Patrick Reed, the 2018 champion, and Australian Cameron Smith, five months after finishing second, also finished in the top 10 with four under and three under.


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