Why Matsuyama’s Masters win might never have happened
AUGUSTA, Ga. - Hideki Matsuyama almost turned down his first chance to play the Masters.
It was a month after a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, disasters that killed thousands and destroyed much of the region he called home in March 2011.
He decided to play a month later, only because he thought it would lift spirits.
A decade later, he lifted his country again — becoming Japan’s first man to win a golf major.
Matsuyama’s one-shot victory over Will Zalatoris at Augusta National made him the Masters champion, easily the biggest moment for the sport in his golf-crazed homeland.
Matsuyama made history at the Masters before he even won it.
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.
His 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.
Then 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.
He held on to that lead Sunday to take the win.
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.
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