AUGUSTA, Ga. — Hideki Matsuyama delivered golf-mad Japan the grandest and greenest prize of all.
Ten years after Matsuyama made a sterling debut as the best amateur at Augusta National, he claimed the ultimate trophy Sunday with a victory in the Masters to become the first Japanese winner of the green jacket.
Matsuyama closed with a 1-over 73 and a one-shot victory that was only close at the end, and never seriously in doubt after Xander Schauffele’s late charge ended with a triple bogey on the par-3 16th.
Moments before Dustin Johnson helped him into the green jacket, Matsuyama needed no interpreter in Butler Cabin when he said in English, “I’m really happy.”
So masterful was this performance that Matsuyama stretched his lead to six shots on the back nine until a few moments of drama. With a four-shot lead, he went for the green in two on the par-5 15th and it bounded hard off the back slope and into the pond on the 16th hole.
Matsuyama did well to walk away with bogey, and with Schauffele making a fourth straight birdie, the lead was down to two shots with three to play.
The next swing all but ended it. Schauffele’s tee shot on the par-3 16th bounced off the hill left of the green and dribbled into the pond. His third shot from the drop area went into the gallery. It added to a triple bogey, and his third close call in a major.
Never mind that Matsuyama bogeyed three of his last four holes, the first Masters champion with a final round over par since Trevor Immelman shot 75 in 2008.
All that mattered was that uphill walk to the 18th green, needing only to blast out of the bunker and take two putts for the victory.
And that’s what he did, soaking in the moment with a few thousand spectators on their feat to celebrate a career-changing moment — for the 29-year-old Matsuyama, and he hopes for an entire country.
“Hopefully, I’ll be a pioneer and many other Japanese will follow,” Matsuyama said.
Will Zalatoris, the 24-year-ld Masters rookie, holed an 18-foot par putt on the last hole for a 70 and was runner-up. It was the best performance by a first-timer to the Masters since another Dallas kid, Jordan Spieth, was runner-up in 2014 to Bubba Watson.
Spieth had a few fleeting thoughts of coming from six shots behind except for too many missed putts early and missed opportunities late. He bogeyed his last hole for a 70 and tied for third with Schauffele, who shot a 72 with a triple bogey and a double bogey on his card.
Matsuyama finished at 10-under 278 for his 15th victory worldwide, and his sixth on the PGA Tour.
He becomes the second man from an Asian country to win a major. Y.E. Yang of South Korea won the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine over Tiger Woods.
Returning to the 18th green for the trophy presentation, he again put on the green jacket and raised both arms in triumph. Augusta National allowed limited spectators, believed to be about 8,000 a day, and most might have remembered him from a decade ago.
He won the Asia-Pacific Amateur to earn an invitation to the Masters, and he was low amateur — tied with defending champion Phil Mickelson that year — to earn a trip into famed Butler Cabin. He won in Japan as an amateur, and four times after he graduated college and turned pro. His first PGA Tour victory was at the Memorial in 2014, prompting tournament host Jack Nicklaus to say, “I think you’ve just seen the start of what’s going to be truly one of your world’s great players over the next 10 to 15 years.”
That moment came Sunday.
Matsuyama is not big on emotion, and he speaks even less even when cornered after every round by the large contingent of Japanese media.
Most of the media was absent this year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, and Matsuyama had said on the eve of the final round that it has been a lot less stress.
There was plenty on the golf course, right from the start.
Matsuyama sent his opening tee shot into the trees right of the first fairway. He punched it under the trees from the pine straw, hit a soft pitch that rolled down the slope away from the pin and was happy to leave with bogey. Two groups ahead of him, Zalatoris opened with two straight birdies.
Just like that, the lead was down to one.
No one got any closer until the final hour. Matsuyama made birdie from the front bunker on the par-5 second hole. He didn’t make another birdie until the par-5 eighth, and it didn’t matter because no one could put any pressure on him.
Zalatoris misjudged the speed on No. 3 and three-putted for bogey from just off the back of the green. Schauffele was within three of the lead going to the third hole, only to go bogey-bogey-double bogey on the toughest three-hole stretch on the course.
Matsuyama delivered what appeared to be a knockout punch with a nifty up-and-down from right of the green on the eighth for a tap-in birdie, and a lob wedge to the dangerous left pin on the ninth that rolled out to 3 feet. That sent him to the back nine with a five-shot lead.
For the longest time, it looked as though Matsuyama couldn’t wait to get to Butler Cabin and see how he looked in green.
Schauffele, however, rammed in a 20-foot birdie putt from behind the 12th green. He two-putted from 10 feet for birdie on No. 13. He nearly holed out from the fairway for a tap-in birdie on the 14th. And with he nearly holed his greenside bunker shot on the par-5 15th for a fourth straight birdie.
And then all that that worked ended when his ball disappeared below the surface of the pond.
Matsuyama could afford a few bogeys, and all that affected was the final margin. He is the Masters champion, a major that defines his elite status in the game and gives Japan the biggest week it has ever had in April. The week started a week ago Saturday when Tsubasa Kajitani won the second Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
Matsuyama wasn’t around to see it, but he was well aware of it. All he wanted was to follow her path and made Japan proud. His play spoke volumes.
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Hideki Matsuyama showed he could handle Augusta National when he first showed up as a 19-year-old amateur. Ten years later, the Japanese star put himself on the cusp of a green jacket Saturday at the Master
In a stunning turnaround after storms doused the course, Matsuyama had four birdies, an eagle and a superb par at the end of a 7-under 65, turning a three-shot deficit into a four-shot lead as he tries to become the first Japanese player to win a major.
“This is a new experience for me being a leader going into the final round in a major,” Matsuyama said. “I guess all I can do is relax and prepare well and do my best.”
Matsuyama was at 11-under 205, and no one could stay with him after the delay. It lasted 1 hour, 18 minutes because of dangerous weather and just enough rain fell that crusty Augusta National was a little more forgiving.
He hit what he said was his worst shot of the day right before the delay, a tee shot into the trees on the right. He punched a 7-iron out to 20 feet for birdie and was on his way.
The break brought the Masters to life, and at times it was hard to keep up.
Xander Schauffele ran in a 60-foot eagle putt across the 15th green to momentary join a four-way tie for the lead. Seconds later, Justin Rose holed a 25-foot birdie putt back on the par-3 12th to regain the lead. That lasted as long as it took Matsuyama to rap in his 5-foot eagle putt on the 15th to take the lead for good.
The entire sequence took no more than two minutes.
But after that, no one could catch Matsuyama. When the round ended, Schauffele (68), Rose (72), Marc Leishman (70) and Masters rookie Will Zalatoris (71) were all at 7-under 209.
Jordan Spieth was within two shots of the lead despite a double bogey on the seventh hole, but he couldn’t keep pace and shot 72 to fall six shots behind.
Matsuyama will play in the final group with Schauffele, a comfortable pairing. Schauffele’s mother was raised in Japan and he speaks enough Japanese to share a few laughs with Matsuyama during Saturday’s pairing.
That won’t eliminate all the pressure. His lone shot at a major was at Quail Hollow in the 2017 PGA Championship when he was one shot behind with three holes to play and missed a crucial par putt. He was in tears after that round, a player under enormous pressure in golf-mad Japan.
Matsuyama wasn’t the first Japanese star of his generation — that was close friend Ryo Ishikawa — but he is by far the most accomplished. Matsuyama has 14 worldwide wins, five on the PGA Tour. He has reached as high as No. 2 in the world.
He won the Asia-Pacific Amateur in 2010 that earned him a spot in the Masters the following year. He was the only amateur to make the cut, finishing on the same score (1 under) as defending champion Phil Mickelson.
A decade later, he is on the cusp of history. The only other player from an Asian country to win a men’s major is Y.E. Yang in the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.
Matsuyama wouldn’t have believed he could leave Augusta National on Saturday night with a four-shot lead. But he knew he was playing well, and he showed it. On a course that has played difficult all week, he delivered the first bogey-free round of the week.
The signature shot was his 5-iron to a left pin to 5 feet for eagle. Equally stellar was an 8-iron to the front right shelf on the par-3 16th to 5 feet for a birdie, and then his pitching wedge to 10 feet behind the hole on the 17th. His work still wasn’t through.
From a fairway bunker on the 18th, Matsuyama sent it soaring over the green and up the walkway toward the clubhouse, some 25 yards to the hole with little margin for error with a back pin. His chip bounced with enough spin to trickle out to 3 feet for par.
It was reminiscent of Spieth closing out his third round in 2015 with a tough par save on the 18th to take a four-shot lead into the final round. That’s what Matsuyama has on Sunday, with a nation watching.
He rarely can go anywhere on the PGA Tour without a dozen or more Japanese media following. Their numbers are limited this year because of COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“Being in front of the media is still difficult. It’s not my favorite thing to do,” Matsuyama said through his interpreter. “It’s been a lot less stress for me. I’ve enjoyed this week.”
A victory would give Japan a sweep this week. Tsubasa Kajitani won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last Saturday.
AUGUSTA, Ga. – Justin Rose opted to skip the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play a couple of weeks ago in order to be fresh for the Masters.
He still got his match-play fix on Friday at Augusta National.
After seeing his four-shot lead at the end of Day 1 shrink quickly during a 3-over start through seven holes, Rose blocked out the list of names closing the gap and focused solely on beating the golf course.
“The finger was heading toward the panic button a little bit,” Rose said. “I had a little talk with myself on 8 and said, You’re still leading the Masters, and I just changed my mindset a little bit and started to play match play against the golf course. I scratched a line on my scorecard and told myself I was 3 down and could I go ahead and beat the golf course from that point on.”
Rose responded with three birdies on the back nine, and he had an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-4 18th hole to win his “match.” The putt slid by left, Rose settled for an even-par 72 that kept him in the lead at 7 under.
“An honorable draw,” he said.
Rose, who hadn’t played a tournament since withdrawing from the Arnold Palmer Invitational after 40 holes with a back injury, admittedly entered the year’s first major far from sharp, though that didn’t keep him from firing a sensational 65 in the opening round to build a sizeable advantage. Early on Friday, it looked as if Rose’s time atop the leaderboard would be short-lived, as he hit his tee shot at No. 1 into the right trees and had to chip out sideways.
He salvaged a good bogey on the opening hole, but after a birdie at the par-5 second, Rose hit a couple of unfortunate lag putts that results in bogeys on Augusta National’s front-nine par-3s. He left a 50-footer for birdie on No. 4 on the fairway cut, as his ball only traveled some 20 feet and didn’t quite catch the putting surface to funnel down toward the cup. At the sixth, he couldn’t get it onto the top shelf form 67 feet, and his ball rolled back down to about 60 feet.
He also found a fairway bunker off the tee at the par-4 seventh and could only lay up to about 110 yards.
“I think it was just a classic day at Augusta National when you’re just slightly off,” Rose said. “You can be a foot or two out on certain occasions and you end up struggling. I think maybe off the back of yesterday, yeah, you know, it starts to feel pretty different pretty quickly.”
But Rose didn’t give up and kept things “ticking forward.” How could he not? Rose, who owns two runner-up finishes on this course, including a playoff loss to Sergio Garcia in 2017, said this special place inspires him.
“It’s a golf course I know how to play better than any other,” he said. “For me to come into any major championship without playing for a month [and play well], it would be this one.”
Now, how does he keep the momentum going? By not watching TV. Rose typically likes tuning into the coverage when he’s not in contention. But when he is, like he is this week, he’d rather not pay attention, especially since the topic surrounding him will likely be the fact that only one of the past 23 outright first-round leaders at the Masters has gone on to win.
“Not listening to you guys, that’s exactly how I block it out,” he said.
History does get better, though: 31 of the previous 84 champions had at least a share of the 36-hole lead.
AUGUSTA, Ga. — Seven holes into the Masters, Justin Rose was 2-over par and in no position to panic.
He knew Augusta National in April was no picnic compared with the last one in November. He figured if he could get back to around even par by the end of the day he would be fine.
Rose never expected his best score in his 59 rounds at Augusta National.
No one could have seen it coming, either.
Rose made seven birdies and an eagle during a torrid 10-hole stretch for an opening 7-under 65, giving him a four-shot lead Thursday in conditions that might only get tougher the rest of the way.
“It’s incredible,” Rose said. “It’s a good reminder that you just never know what can happen out there.”
It started with a nice hop off the mounds left of the green on the par-5 eighth that set up a 10-foot eagle. Only two of his birdie putts were outside 8 feet. He holed a 12-foot par putt on the one green he missed. Not bad for a 40-year-old from England playing for the first time in a month while resting an ailing back.
Twice a runner-up, including a playoff loss to Sergio Garcia four years ago, Rose tied a Masters record by taking at least a share of first-round lead for the fourth time. The other to do that was Jack Nicklaus. The difference? Nicklaus went on to win two of his six green jackets from that position.
Brian Harman, the last player to get into the 88-man field, and Hideki Matsuyama were wrapping up their rounds of 69 about the time Rose began on a course that was dry and crusty, on greens that were so fast there were splotches of brown.
Among those at 70 were former Masters champion Patrick Reed and Masters newcomer Will Zalatoris. Jordan Spieth overcame a triple bogey from the trees on No. 9 and got a huge break when his chip on the 15th banged into the pin for eagle instead of running down into the water. He shot 71.
Missing were a slew of red numbers on the leaderboard in conditions so difficult that Garcia said after a 76, “I feel like I just came out of the ring with Evander Holyfield.”
Five months ago, in the first Masters held in November because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the turf was so soft that 53 players were under par after the opening round.
Rose shot 65 on a day so tough only 12 players broke par, and the average score was 74.5.
British Open champion Shane Lowry chipped from the back of the 15th green into the water in front of the green. He escaped with bogey and managed a 71. U.S. Amateur champion Tyler Strafaci hit a 60-foot putt from behind the ninth green that wound up 75 feet away on the other side.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson, who set the record last year at 20-under 268, failed to break par for the first time since the opening round in 2018. He three-putted for double bogey on the 18th for a 74.
“I feel sorry for the guys’ first Masters in November, and then they’re walking out there today wondering what the hell is going on,” Kevin Kisner said after a hard-earned 72.
This was no surprise. Augusta National has not had rain in more than a week, and players could not recall the last time greens were this fast during practice rounds, much less with a scorecard in hand on Thursday.
“It’s my 10th year, but I’ve never seen the greens so firm and fast,” Matsuyama said. “So it was like a new course for me playing today, and I was fortunate to get it around well.”
And what to say of Rose? Even in more forgiving conditions, he had never done better than 67.
“I didn’t feel like today was the day for a 65, if I’m honest,” Rose said.
No one needed convincing, least of all Bryson DeChambeau and Rory McIlroy, among top players who struggled with the wind and had just as many problems when the ball was on the ground.
DeChambeau, the U.S. Open champion who has been licking his chops about bringing his super-sized game to Augusta National, didn’t make a birdie until the 15th hole and shot 76, his highest score as a pro at the Masters. Patrick Cantlay hit into the water on both par 3s on the back nine and shot 79.
“Guys are going to shoot themselves out of the golf tournament on day one,” Webb Simpson said after a late double bogey forced him to settle for a 70.
McIlroy, needing a green jacket to complete the career Grand Slam, hit his father with a shot on the seventh hole. That was about the most interesting moment in his round of 76. Lee Westwood, who had a pair of runner-up finishes in the Florida Swing, had a 78.
Rose looked as though he might be headed that direction. He made a soft bogey on No. 1. He three-putted across the green on No. 7. He was 2 over, though not ready to panic. He knew it was tough. He also knew he was headed in the wrong direction.
“You can’t win the golf tournament today. Even with a 65 you can’t win it today,” Rose said. “You can only probably lose it today, obviously. I reset just prior to that and thought if I can get myself back around even par, that would be a good day’s work.”
He hit 5-wood into 10 feet for eagle and a 9-iron to the dangerous left pin on No. 9 to 4 feet for birdie. He holed a 25-foot putt on the 10th and hi 8-iron to 6 feet on No. 12. It never stopped. Even from the first cut of rough on the 17th, his wedge settled 4 feet from the hole.
He finished going over the details of that incredible stretch, smiled and said, “Sounds easy.”
It looked that way. But only for him.