Hideki Matsuyama becomes the first Japanese golfer to win a major competition in claiming the The Masters at Augusta earlier this week.
Matsuyama’s four strokes clear at the start of the day had extended his lead to five at the turn.
But, his title bid threatened to sour as Xander Schauffele closed in and Will Zalatoris loomed.
Finding water at the par-five 15th hole, Matsuyama took the penalty and cleaned up for bogey as Schauffele continued to heap pressure on the Japanese.
However, Schauffele’s pursuit of a maiden major collapsed when the American – seven back at the 12th tee before rallying – also found water before sending his next shot into the crowd.
Matsuyama had a routine par to move three shots clear with two to play, but he dropped another shot, his lead down to two ahead of Zalatoris.
An ill-timed triple-bogey sent 2019 runner-up Schauffele down to equal third alongside Spieth – four shots behind.
It was Schauffele’s first triple-bogey in a major championship – a run of 1,042 holes.
That was the breathing space Matsuyama needed as Japan’s new poster boy held his nerve, doing what he needed to do during the final two holes in front of an appreciative crowd on the 18th.
“My nerves really didn’t start on the second nine,” Matsuyama said. “It was right from the start today. Right to the very last putt.”
Matsuyama (2011) became the third Masters champion in the last five years to have previously earned low amateur honours.
Following in the footsteps of Tiger Woods (2019, low amateur in 1995) and Sergio Garcia (2017, low amateur in 1999).
“I’m glad to be able to open the floodgates hopefully, and many more will follow me.”
Matsuyama Inspired By MLB Stars
Hideki Matsuyama, current Masters Champion says he admires countrymen and MLB stars Yu Darvish, Kenta Maeda and Shohei Ohtan, this after becoming the first Japanese man to win a major.
Matsuyama made history with his one-stroke victory ahead of Will Zalatoris in a tense finale at Augusta on Sunday.
A five-time PGA Tour winner before this success, Matsuyama withstood a wobble and the threat posed by Xander Schauffele (72) and Zalatoris (70) to complete a history-making performance in Georgia, where he carded a final-round 73 to claim the green jacket.
Matsuyama was asked about his golfing heroes after the memorable achievement, but the 29-year-old instead listed his baseball idols – Los Angeles Angels two-way sensation Ohtani, four-time All-Star and San Diego Padres ace Darvish and Minnesota Twins pitcher Maeda.
“You know, the people that I admired were a lot — were mainly baseball players: Darvish, Ohtani, Maeda,” Matsuyama told reporters.
“As far as golf, not so much. Hopefully now others will, like you said, be inspired for what happened here today and follow in my footsteps.”
“It’s been a struggle recently,” added Matsuyama, who had last won on the PGA Tour in 2017.
“This year, no Top 10s, haven’t even contended. So I came to Augusta with little or no expectations. But as the week progressed, as I practiced, especially on Wednesday, I felt something again. I found something in my swing.
“And when that happens, the confidence returns. And so I started the tournament with a lot of confidence.”
“I can’t say I’m the greatest. However, I’m the first to win a major, and if that’s the bar, then I’ve set it.”
With his final-round 73, Matsuyama became the eighth player (nine instances) to claim The Masters.