Going into Masters’ final round in the lead, Matsuyama marks a first for Japan

Published: Apr. 11, 2021 at 7:56 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. - Japan has been sending golfers to the Masters since 1936, with about three dozen players combining for well over 100 appearances at Augusta National.

And none had ever finished a round atop the leaderboard.

Until Saturday.

Masters week 2021

Hideki Matsuyama’s four-shot lead going into Sunday’s final round of the Masters is a breakthrough moment for Japan, which became the 17th nation to see one of its golfers hold a lead after any round at Augusta National.

He exploded to the top of the leaderboard after his 7 under performance, much of which came after play resumed Saturday due to a weather delay.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to see him at the top.

Ten years ago, he was low amateur and has played in all but 1 tournament since. Matsuyama feels that his career really took off in Augusta, and is just thankful for the opportunity to be here.

“I came and fortunately was able to finish low amateur, and that experience and that -- knowing I could play with other professionals really gave me a lot of confidence. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the members of Augusta National because I wouldn’t be here today,” he said through a translator.

Hideki Matsuyama, speaks with the media during the 2021 Masters Tournament at Augusta National...
Hideki Matsuyama, speaks with the media during the 2021 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, Saturday, April 10, 2021.(Rusty Jarrett | Rusty Jarrett/Augusta National)

He delivered a masterpiece on Saturday, shooting a 7-under 65, the only bogey-free round of the tournament.

He played the final eight holes after a storm delay in 6 under.

It added to a four-shot lead over four players going into the final round.

The 29-year-old will try to become the first Japanese player to win a major.

Chasing him will be Justin Rose, Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman and Will Zalatoris.

Rose is the only player with experience winning a major.

Zalatoris is a Masters rookie.

Matsuyama says he hopes to make Japan proud as he looks for the Japanese sweep after Tsubasa Kajitani won the Women’s Am last week.

Health care workers have made many sacrifices in the past months, so the Masters wanted to say thanks.

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