Hideki Matsuyama overcame a potentially ruinous moment to become the first Japanese man to win a major championship with a one-shot Masters victory over Will Zalatoris at Augusta National on Sunday. Matsuyama, who started the day with a four-shot lead over a quartet that included playing competitor Xander Schauffele and Masters debutant Zalatoris, carded a one-over-par 73 that left him at 10 under on the week at the year’s first major.
“Hopefully I’ll be a pioneer and many other Japanese will follow,” Matsuyama said through an interpreter inside Butler Cabin where he was presented with the champion’s famous Green Jacket. “I am glad to open the floodgates hopefully and many more will follow me.”
The 29-year-old was seemingly in control until a bogey at the par-five 15th, where his approach shot went in the water behind the green, compounded with a birdie from Schauffele turned his four-stroke cushion into a two-shot lead. But world number six Schauffele put his tee shot at the par-three 16th into the water and made triple-bogey to fall out of contention. He finished three shots back of Matsuyama and in a two-way share of third with former champion Jordan Spieth (70).
“I was coming in hot, I was feeling good,” said Schauffele, who made four consecutive birdies starting at the par-three 12th. “Hideki surprisingly went for the green on 15 so I felt like he gave me a little bit of hope there and maybe (I was) a little hyper-aggressive there on 16.”
Matsuyama bogeyed the 16th which left him with a two-shot lead over Zalatoris (70), who was already in the clubhouse at nine under on the week, and went on to close the deal with a par-bogey finish.
“Making Japan proud Hideki,” five-times Masters champion Tiger Woods, who is home recovering from serious leg injuries suffered in a February car crash, wrote on Twitter.
“Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment for you and your country. This historical @TheMasters win will impact the entire golf world.”