Hideki Matsuyama won the 2021 Masters Tournament, becoming the first Japanese to win one of the four major golf championships.
Matsuyama hit a par 10 during the four-day tournament held at Georgia’s Augusta National Golf Club, finishing a shot ahead of American Will Zalatoris.
A few minutes later, Matsuyama, ranked 25th in the world, donned the legendary green jacket awarded to the winners of the Masters. A decade earlier, he had finished amateur with the lowest score in the 2011 event at the age of 19.
Matsuyama, 29, had already established himself as the best Japanese golfer in history with five wins on the US PGA Tour, and reached second place in the world rankings in 2017. His form suffered, however, thereafter. , and he failed to win a tournament for almost four years.
Her victory came just a week after Japan’s Tsubasa Kajitani won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, a high-level competition the club inaugurated in 2019 for non-professional players.
Matsuyama took control of the tournament on Saturday afternoon, when he shot six under par on the back nine in round three to take a four-time lead in the final round.
The solid play and the mistakes of the competitors allowed him to increase his lead to six shots in the middle of Sunday’s round. But his margin narrowed when Matsuyama found water on the edge of the greens long 15th.
His playing partner, Xander Sc Chaudele of the United States, came within two strokes with a birdie – but wasted his chance at the very next hole with a triple bogey after seeing his tee shot agonizingly slide into the lake on the 16th court. Despite two other late bogeys, including the 18th, Matsuyama held on, leaving him the smallest margin of victory over Zalatoris.
“I hope I will be a pioneer and many more Japanese will follow suit,” Matsuyama said through an interpreter during the presentation of the green jacket in the butler’s cabin. “I am happy to be able to open the floodgates, I hope, and many more will follow me.”
The Masters was played just days after Georgia Republicans adopted a draft electoral law that critics said targeted black voters. In response to the outcry over the law, Major League Baseball moved This summer’s All-Star Game in Colorado.
Augusta National President Fred Ridley refused to condemn the law but mentionned this “[n]o one should be at a disadvantage in exercising this right [to vote]”.
Ridley also rejected calls for a boycott, saying “these actions often impose the greatest burdens on the most vulnerable in society.”
Masters and elite golf circles have long been prosecuted by exclusion charges based on race and gender. The 2021 tournament began on Thursday when Lee Elder, who in 1975 became the first black man to play at the Masters, was invited to join the starting ceremony alongside six-time winner Jack Nicklaus and three-time champion Gary Player.