Golf

History Making Matsuyama Hangs On To Claim Masters Title

Hideki Matsuyama survived a late collapse to become the first Japanese player to win a Major title by winning The Masters on Sunday night.

Heading into the final day of action at Augusta, the Japanese ace held a four-shot lead over the rest of the field and early on in the round, he extended that with some stellar play over the opening nine holes.

At one point on the back nine, Matsuyama’s lead over the field was six shots.

A late collapse however brought Will Zalatoris, who finished one shot behind in second and Xander Schauffele into contention, but neither could do enough to overtake Matsuyama.

Schauffele’s 16th Nightmare

Although it was Zalatoris that finished second in the competition on -9, it was Matsuyama’s playing partner Xander Schauffele that was arguably his closest challenger.

After a run of four successive birdies, combined with Matsuyama getting away with a fortunate bogey at the 15th and then finding water at the 16th for another bogey, Schauffele closed the gap from six shots down to two as he stood on the 16th tee.

The 16th hole saw the flag in its usual position on the final day at the bottom of the slope and the feeling was if Schauffele could put his ball close, the pressure seemed to be getting to the leader.

However, Schauffele didn’t strike his ball cleanly and could only watch in horror as it bounced in front of the green, landing well short and then rolled down the slope into the water.

The pressure that had been rapidly building on Matsuyama was released in that instant and the Japanese golfer found a safe part of the green with his tee shot as Schauffele could only hit his dropped ball into the gallery – recording a triple bogey six that ended his challenge.

Three Bogeys In Final Four Holes

With Zalatoris posting the lowest score in the clubhouse with Matsuyama on the 18th, the Japanese star held on to a two-shot lead as he played the last.

His second shot found the bunker by the 18th green and from there he splashed out the bunker and took two putts to claim the win. Matsuyama had bogeyed three of the last four holes on the course as nerves took hold, but the lead he had established meant he had done enough to win.

For Schauffele it was a bitter pill to swallow with two holes, the 5th and 16th costing him five strokes on the day. Two pars at those holes and he would be celebrating a first Major win, rather than a third close call.

It was also a breakthrough moment for Dallas-based Will Zalatoris, who had been one of the unlikely front runners in the tournament since day one and who played some stellar golf belying his relative inexperience.

He was the first player to finish second in his first Masters event since Jordan Spieth in 2014.

“A Pioneer”

Using an interpreter after his win Matsuyama stated:

“I am really happy. My nerves really didn’t start on the back nine, it was right from the start and right until the very last putt.”

“I was thinking about them all the way around. I am really happy I played well for them. Hopefully Hopefully, I’ll be a pioneer and many other Japanese players will follow and I am glad to open the floodgates.”

He also added in English:

“I’m very happy!”

He is only the second player from Asia to win a Major trophy, following Y.E.Yang, the South Korean golfer who held off Tiger Woods at the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.

His 10-under par victory was his 15th victory in his career and his sixth on the PGA Tour. He was also the lowest-scoring amateur at the 2011 Masters, which earned him a trip to the Butler Cabin to pick up his Silver Cup trophy.

Others In The Field Fail To Shine

Others in the field that were well-placed following the third round didn’t really shine as expected on the final day.

Justin Rose, who had led the tournament up until the third day, finished on -5. Jordan Spieth couldn’t go as low as he needed and finished tied with Schauffele on -7 in third, while Jon Rahm had the lowest score of the day with the Spaniard shooting 66 to finish tied fifth on -6, alongside Australian Marc Leishman.

Speaking after the win, Tiger Woods tweeted:

“Making Japan proud Hideki. Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment for you and your country. This historical @TheMasters, win will impact the entire golf world.”

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