A name has just been engraved on a beloved trophy, it is the Augusta Masters Trophy. The year, the name and the total score are the data. The first inscription reads: “1934 Horton Smith 284.” The latest: “2021 Hideki Matsuyama 278”. Between those two names there are 83 more inscriptions, or a good part of golf history, as you prefer.
Matsuyama made his last putt on the 18th hole to win the Masters amid the long shadows of late Sunday in Georgia, or just after 8am on Monday morning, in his native Japan. That simple final act made him the first Japanese golfer to win a Major. It is difficult to anticipate the magnitude of this huge event in a country with more than nine million golfers and 2,500 courses.
This victory is also of great importance for Augusta. in his capacity as an active promoter of amateur tournaments that are played in Asia and Latin America. Matsuyama was the winner in two consecutive editions of the Asia Pacific Amateur Championship (2010 and 2011), this earned him invitations to play the Masters as an amateur in 2011 and 2012. On both occasions he passed the qualifying cut and in the first of them he was the best amateur, receiving the famous Silver Medal. With the victory of Matsuyama this afternoon, a virtuous cycle closes that confirms that the enormous investment that Augusta National makes to promote amateur golf has a credible reflection for the benefit of this sport.
Beyond the events that occurred in this last lap, and which we will see later, there remains a question that cannot be answered: How is it that this super talented 29-year-old player could not win many more tournaments on the PGA Tour.
Matsuyama turned pro in 2013, and in 2014 he joined the PGA Tour where in the first year he won the Memorial Tournament. “I’m sure this young man will win many tournaments in the years to come,” said Jack Nicklaus himself, as host of the Memorial, at the awards ceremony. His opinion was widely shared by the world golf community. But it was two years until the next one. In 2016 he won the Phoenix Open. Already in 2017, his best year, he won the WGC HSBC in Shanghai, again the Phenix Open and finally, the Bridgeston Invitational with a final round of 61 strokes (-9) that will go down in history as one of the best, without a doubt. . That sensational triumph was followed by no less than four long years of drought until this great triumph he achieved in Augusta, which enshrines him as one of the greats of this era so populated by extraordinary golfers.
But how could it be otherwise, the second nine holes of the final round of the Masters again had drama and unexpected events in rapid succession. Because suddenly and without much warning, what seemed like a triumphant march without frights and almost on the verge of turning into something boring, had a hiatus of only half an hour that surprised the audience, and especially the actors themselves. For some strange reason, Hideki decided to hit the green for his second shot on the short par 5 of the 15th hole. The air was hot and a 4-iron, from 227 yards, ran for 260. Hideki’s white Srixon drowned in the back lagoon. from the green. He did bogey. Xander Schauffele, his guard and playmate, birdied, stood on the 16th tee wanting to be a hero and took the first step. He aimed at the flag with his 8 iron. His shot went just a meter more to the left and ended up in the lagoon. Hideki regained his composure and shot it to the right, well out of trouble, from where he would end up making three bogey putts. All this while Schauffelle buried his chances with a horrible triple bogey. In his defense, it must be said that the shot he tried was the one that had to be made. If he had taken that meter further to the right, we would all be talking about that great shot that took him to glory. This is golf.
But Matsuyama’s tribulations did not cease. Because after a great par on the 17th, he stopped on the tee at the 18th hole, two strokes ahead of young Will Zalatoris and hit a sensational fade drive that was in the middle of the fairway at 140 yards. That was, according to him said in the subsequent press conference, the most important blow of the entire round. But from there, with a pitching wedge he threw it into the bunker to finish with a bogey, which gave him this historic victory.
There is much more to tell about this 2021 Masters, and it will be told later. Meanwhile, for now this note will be a simple tribute to the champion, Hideki Matsuyama.