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Golf: Hideki Matsuyama, first Japanese to win Augusta Masters

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The Japanese Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese to win the Augusta Masters, 85th of the name, and at the same time a Grand Slam golf tournament, Sunday in Georgia (United States). On the famous Georgian course, the 29-year-old golfer started his final round four strokes ahead. He had only one, 18 holes later, on the American Will Zalatoris, author of a superb performance for his first participation. Enough nevertheless to win this 85th edition, during which another American, 6th in the world, Xander Sc Chaudele, made him pitch at the end of the course, before cracking and finishing three lengths like Jordan Spieth in 3rd place. .

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Successor to world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, the 25th world player, who is expected to make a significant leap to the top of the rankings, now has six USPGA titles, including two WGC World Championships, which had earned him the top spot. 2nd in the world in 2017. But this victory is without question the most prestigious of all, rewarding a player as talented as discreet, who enjoyed the places of honor in the Majors (5th in the Masters 2015, 2nd in the US Open 2017, 4th in the 2016 PGA Championship, 6th in the British Open 2013).

This coronation in Georgia is the first for a golfer coming from the “land of the rising sun”, of which he was already a pioneer, in that he was the first amateur of his country to take part in 2011 and the only one to spend there. the cut, then finishing 27th and winning the Silver Cup, awarded to the best non-professional in contention.

Japan in the spotlight

“I am very happy. I hope that I will be a pioneer in this matter and that many other Japanese will follow. I’m happy to open the door, ”said the native of Matsuyama, a town on the island of Shikoku, who happens to be the second Asian golfer to win a Grand Slam, after South Korean Yong-eun Yang. (PGA Championship 2009).

“You make Japan proud, Hideki. Congratulations on this huge accomplishment for you and your country. This historic victory at the Masters will have an impact on the world of golf as a whole ”, congratulated the absent, Tiger Woods. Convalescent after his serious car accident which broke his right leg, he was, 24 years earlier, the first half-breed, Black by his father, Asian by his mother, to be consecrated in Augusta.

Japan is definitely in the spotlight in Augusta, as eight days earlier her young compatriot Tsubasa Kajitani, 17, won the Women’s Masters as an amateur. Previously, two professionals have won Majors: Hisako Higuchi, winner of the LPGA Championship in 1977 and Hinako Shibuno, winner of the British Open in 2019.

Matsuyama not reassured

The day after his impressive seizure of power at the expense of the experienced Englishman Justin Rose who finished 6th in the end, he made a solid first part of the course: after a bogey from the first hole, he quickly took off. resumed by making a birdie on the second. Just after missing one at N.7, he managed two more at N.8 and N.9, increasing his lead to five lengths over Zalatoris.

Then, in the “back nine”, Matsuyama almost agreed with observers who attributed him a tendency to crack under pressure. If he wiped out a bogey at 11 by birdie at 12, after being lucky enough to have his approach kicked back into the grass by a tree, he sent his ball into the river at 15 for a new bogey.

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Xander ScHotele, chained him his fourth birdie in a row and came back to two shots (-12 to -10). But at the next hole it was the American who did the Japanese a favor by sending the ball in turn into the water, committing a triple bogey which destroyed his ascent.

Proof that he was not completely reassured, Matsuyama again conceded a bogey on this N.16, counting again only two lengths on Zalatoris, this time, who had just finished. On the last two holes, the Japanese just had to take no chances to avoid making more mistakes, which he did, as calmly as possible.

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