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Magical Matsuyama Masters history for Asia following one-shot win for the ages

Hideki Matsuyama created Masters Tournament history on Sunday after overcoming intense pressure and the weight of a nation to become the first Japanese male golfer to triumph at Augusta National and put on the famous green jacket.

Leading by four overnight, a one-over 73 in the final round was enough to earn Matsuyama a nervy but momentous one-stroke victory with his 10-under 278 total over American debutant Will Zalatoris (70) as he became only the second Asian male golfer to win a major following Y.E. Yang’s triumph at the 2009 PGA Championship.

Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Masters winner, and Xander Schauffele, playing in the final group with Matsuyama, finished three back in a share of third place after rounds of 70 and 72 respectively.

Matsuyama’s ascendency marks a full circle in his stellar career as it was at Augusta National 10 years ago that he first announced his arrival on the global stage by emerging as the low amateur. Then, he watched up close Phil Mickelson slipping the green jacket on Charl Schwartzel, and he was soon beaming with pride after last year’s champion, Dustin Johnson did the honors for him in Butler Cabin.

The long-awaited victory, which was Matsuyama’s sixth PGA TOUR title and his first since August 2017, was written in the stars as seven days ago, 17-year-old compatriot Tsubasa Kajitani won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Matsuyama had previously finished fifth and tied seventh at the Masters in 2015 and 2016 respectively while his best major outing was a joint runner-up result in the 2017 U.S. Open.

“I’m really happy,” Matsuyama said through his long-time interpreter Bob Turner. “My nerves really didn't start on the second nine. It was right from the start today and right to the very last putt. Hopefully, I'll be a pioneer in this (winning the Masters) and many other Japanese will follow. I'm glad to be able to open the floodgates hopefully, and many more will follow me.”

Pic Credit: Getty Images

Pride of Japan

An opening bogey against Zalatoris’ fast start which featured birdies in the first two holes quickly saw Matsuyama’s lead dwindle down to one stroke early on. However, the Japanese star bounced back with birdies on Hole Nos. 2, 8 and 9 to make the turn with what looked like a comfortable five-shot lead.

But as they say at Augusta National, the Masters often begins on the back nine on Sunday afternoon and Matsuyama soon felt the full brunt of trying to chase down his maiden major title. He dropped four bogeys, including three over his closing four holes, but eventually prevailed after safely two-putting from six feet for a closing bogey. Once the magnitude of his major breakthrough had sunk in, he raised his hands in jubilation and shed tears of joy while walking back to the clubhouse.

“My plan this morning was to wake up about 9:30. But needless to say, I arose much earlier than that and couldn't go back to sleep. So I came to the golf course early. Had a really good warm-up. I felt really good going to the first tee, until I stood on the first tee, and then it hit me that I'm in the last group of the Masters Tournament and I'm the leader by four strokes. And then I was really nervous,” said Matsuyama, who became the eighth champion to close with an over-par round.

“But I caught myself, and the plan was just go out and do my best for 18 holes. And so that was my thought throughout the day, just keep doing my best. It's been a struggle recently. 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.”

He is looking forward to returning to his golf-crazed home country soon to celebrate with his family and friends. “I can't imagine what it's going to be like, but what a thrill and honor it will be for me to take the green jacket back to Japan. I'm really looking forward to it,” said Matsuyama, whose victory took him up to seventh place on the latest FedExCup standings.

“I hope it will affect golf in Japan in a good way. Not only those who are golfers already, but hopefully the youngsters who are playing golf or thinking about playing golf, I hope they will see this victory and think it's cool and try to follow in my footsteps. Until now, we haven't had a major champion in Japan, and maybe a lot of golfers or younger golfers, too, though, well, maybe that's an impossibility. But with me doing it, hopefully, that will set an example for them that it is possible and that, if they set their mind to it, they can do it, too.”

When asked if his Masters breakthrough will finally set him apart from other Japanese greats who include the likes of Isao Aoki, Jumbo Ozaki, Tommy Nakajima, Shigeki Maruyama and Shingo Katayama, Matsuyama, in typical fashion replied: “You know, 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.”

Korea’s Si Woo Kim closed with a final round 72 to finish T12 on 286 to earn a return trip next year’s Masters.

Final-Round Notes – Sunday, April 11, 2021

Weather: Mostly cloudy and breezy. High of 80. Wind W 10-15 mph, gusting to 23 mph.


Final-Round Leaderboard

Hideki Matsuyama            69-71-65-73—278 (-10)

Will Zalatoris                      70-68-71-70—279 (-9)

Jordan Spieth                     71-68-72-70—281 (-7)

Xander Schauffele              72-69-68-72—281 (-7)

Jon Rahm                           72-72-72-66—282 (-6)

Marc Leishman                  72-67-70-73—282 (-6)


Things to Know

  • Hideki Matsuyama wins the Masters Tournament to become the first male major championship winner from Japan
  • Matsuyama claims his first major championship title and sixth win overall on the PGA TOUR
  • Matsuyama becomes just the eighth champion (nine instances) with an over-par final-round score
  • The winner of the Masters has come out of the final pairing 26 out of the last 31 years
  • Special Temporary Member/PGA TOUR Rookie Will Zalatoris finishes a career-best runner-up in bid to become the first player to win in Masters debut since 1979; only player with four under-par rounds during the week
  • Zalatoris now has six top-10 and 11th top-25 finishes in 15 starts this season
  • Jordan Spieth, the first player in Masters history to birdie No. 10 all four rounds, finishes inside the top three for the fifth time in eight appearances at the Masters
  • Xander Schauffele’s triple bogey on No. 16 was his first in 1,042 holes in a major championship; finishes inside the top three for the second time at the Masters
  • Jon Rahm accounts for just the second bogey-free round of the week with a 66; it was his 15th consecutive par-or-better score at Augusta National Golf Club (one shy of the record held by Tiger Woods)
  • Players with top-10s at both Masters this season: Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed, Corey Conners, Cameron Smith


Hideki Matsuyama (after his victory)


Hideki Matsuyama


29 (February 25, 1992)

FedExCup: 7

OWGR: 14

Starts at the Masters:10

Wins at the Masters:1

Top-10s at the Masters: 3

Career PGA TOUR starts: 187

Career PGA TOUR wins: 6

Career PGA TOUR top-10s: 48

PGA TOUR starts in 2020-21: 17

PGA TOUR wins in 2020-21: 1

PGA TOUR top-10s in 2020-21: 2


Hideki Matsuyama (1st/-10)

  • Becomes the first male major championship winner from Japan
  • First international winner of the Masters since Sergio Garcia in 2017
  • Becomes the third champion in the last five years to have previously earned low amateur honors: Matsuyama (2021/low amateur in 2011) Tiger Woods (2019/1995), Sergio Garcia (2017/1999); others to perform the feat include Cary Middlecoff, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw and Phil Mickelson
  • Victory comes in his 187th start on the PGA TOUR at the age of 29 years, 1 month, 17 days
  • Collects 600 points and moves to No. 7 in the FedExCup standings
  • Wins in his 87th start since his last win at the 2017 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
  • PGA TOUR wins (6): 2014 Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open, 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions, 2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open, 2017 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, 2021 Masters Tournament
  • Final-round 73 snaps streak of 10 consecutive par-or-better score at the Masters
  • Becomes the eighth champion (nine instances) with an over-par final round score, joining Byron Nelson (1942), Herman Keiser (1946), Arnold Palmer (1958, 1962), Gary Player (1961), Jack Nicklaus (1972), Craig Stadler (1982) and Trevor Immelman (2008)
  • Third-round 65 was one of two bogey-free rounds of the week (Jon Rahm/66/R4)
  • Improves to 2-for-5 with the third-round lead/co-lead on the PGA TOUR (won the 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions and 2021 Masters Tournament)
  • Wins in his 33rd major championship appearance; previous-best finish came at the 2017 U.S. Open (T2)
  • Has finished inside the top 20 in six of his last seven starts at the Masters


Third-Round Lead Notes

  • Matsuyama is the 48th 54-hole leader/co-leader to win the Masters (most recent: Dustin Johnson/2020)
  • Matsuyama is the 12th 54-hole leader/co-leader to win in 2020-21, including 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson


Additional Player Notes

  • Will Zalatoris finished second in attempt to become the first player to win in his debut Masters appearance since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979; was the only player with four under-par rounds for the week; last player to finish runner-up in debut appearance at the Masters was Sungjae Im (2020); has six top-10 and 11 top-25 finishes in 15 starts this season
  • 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth finishes inside the top three for the fifth time in eight starts at the Masters (2014/T2, 2015/won, 2016/T2, 2018/3rd, 2021/T3)first player in Masters history to birdie the par-4 10th hole all four rounds
  • Xander Schauffele (T3) had a triple bogey on the par-3 16th – his first in 1,042 holes in a major championship – en route to his second top-3 finish at the Masters (T2/2019, T3/2021); now has four top-3 finishes this season (2020 THE CJ CUP @ SHADOW CREEK/2nd, 2021 Farmers Insurance Open/T2, 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open/T2, 2021 Masters Tournament/T3)
  • With a bogey-free 6-under 66 (just the second bogey-free round of the week), Jon Rahm picks up his fourth consecutive top-10 finish at the Masters (4/2018, T9/2019, T7/2020, T5/2021); now has 15 consecutive par-or-better rounds at the Masters, trailing Tiger Woods’ tournament record of 16 straight from 2007/R3-2011/R2
  • Marc Leishman finished T5 in bid to join Adam Scott as Aussie winners of the Masters; third top-10 finish in nine starts at the Masters (T4/2013, 9th/2018, T5/2021)
  • First- and second-round leader Justin Rose finished seventh for his sixth top-10 finish in 16 starts at the Masters; marks his 18th top-10 finish in his 67th major championship start, led by his 2013 U.S. Open victory
  • 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed (T8) picks up his second consecutive top-10 finish at the Masters (T10/2020)
  • Corey Conners (T8) picked up his second top-10 finish (T10/2020 Masters) in his ninth major championship start; week highlighted by an ace on the par-3 sixth hole in round three
  • Cameron Smith picks up his third top-10 finish in his five starts at the Masters (T55/2016, T5/2018, T51/2019, T2/2020, T10/2021)
  • Tony Finau picks up his third top-10 finish in four starts at the Masters (T10/2018, T5/2019, T38/2020, T10/2021)


Course Statistics

Toughest Hole                   Easiest Hole

R1:         Par-4 11th (4.511)               Par-5 2nd (4.705)

R2:         Par-4 5th (4.460)                 Par-5 13th (4.494)

R3:         Par-4 7th (4.556)                 Par-5 8th (4.389)

R4:         Par-4 11th (4.426)               Par-5 2nd (4.296)

Week:    Par-4 5th (4.431)                 Par-5 2nd (4.551)


Scoring Averages

              Front 9                 Back 9                  Total                    Cumulative

R1:         37.159                  37.364                  74.523                  ---

R2:         36.333                  35.920                  72.253                  73.394

R3:         36.185                  36.241                  72.426                  73.166

R4:         36.537                  36.093                  72.630                  73.064


Bogey-free rounds

R1: None

R2: None

R3: Hideki Matsuyama (65)

R4: Jon Rahm (66)

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