‘Superstar of Japan’ Hideki Matsuyama wins Masters, first from country to win a men’s major

Adam Scott said Sunday that Hideki Matsuyama might have entered the final round of the 2021 Masters somewhat oblivious to how groundbreaking it would be for a Japanese player to win a men’s major.

“I think he’d become the superstar of Japan, if he isn’t already,” Scott said after his own round. “But I don’t think he really feels the weight of expectation — like we all kind of can see what it would mean for Japan and golf over there.”

If Matsuyama didn’t know before what the victory might mean, he’s about to find out.

As he played toward his sixth title on the PGA Tour, the former World No. 2 was steady throughout, holding off youngster Will Zalatoris, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and others to capture not only his biggest title, but the biggest for his country.

It was the first victory for the 29-year-old Matsuyama since 2017, when he won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational for the last of three titles that season.

The win completed an amazing stretch for Japanese golfers as 17-year-old Tsubasa Kajitani took the Augusta National Women’s Amateur just eight days ago.

Fan-favorite Spieth, who has a green jacket from his victory at Augusta in 2015, never really got rolling on the front nine Sunday, making the turn at 37. But Spieth rallied on the back and continued a recent trend of strong play, posting a top-5 finish after winning the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio last week. He closed with a 70 to finish at 7 under for the week.

Zalatoris, who is still just a special temporary member of the PGA Tour, played admirably, closing his day with an 18-foot par putt. He finished with a round of 70 to close at 9 under.

And Schauffele appeared to be tanked after a three-hole stretch on the front in which he went bogey-bogey-double, but he rebounded to make things interesting — pulling to two strokes behind with three holes to play.

But on No. 15 Schauffele found the water, an inconvenient time to post his first triple-bogey at a major.

Meanwhile, Jon Rahm started the day out of the top 20, but he made the day’s biggest charge, following up three consecutive 72s with a scintillating 66.

It set up a fourth straight top-10 finish at Augusta National, but he admitted after his round that when he started thinking about getting close to Matsuyama the pressure mounted.

“It was all fun and games until I made that birdie on 12 and then I looked up and thought I’m not that far away,” Rahm said. “I tried my best at the end, it’s just with the wind gusts and the greens being that firm, pars are obviously great.”


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