Matsuyama Creates History at The Masters
Hideki Matsuyama scored his maiden major victory winning The Masters by one shot. The 29-year-old is the first male golfer from Japan to become a major champion.
Matsuyama made his debut at The Masters in 2011 when he was the low amateur aged 19. He is the seventh low amateur at The Masters to go on to win the Green Jacket.
Matsuyama bolted into the lead with a 7-under 65 on Saturday. The stunning round matched Justin Rose (1st round) for the low round of the tournament. It was the only bogey-free round by the field over the first 54 holes. The world No. 25 covered the final eight holes in six under to reach 11-under for the event and take a four-shot lead into the final round.
The last 24 Masters champions were within four shots of the lead going into Sunday. That statistic meant four players—Marc Leishman, Justin Rose, Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris—had a chance of catching Matsuyama.
Leishman and Rose were paired together in the second last group. Neither player fired a charge for the lead.
Rose, who held the 18-hole and 36-hole lead, produced a disappointing 2-over 74 to finish at 5-under and in outright seventh place. The 40-year-old from England opened the event with an incredible 7-under 65—four shots better than the field. It was the second-largest 18-hole lead in Masters history. And, it was the fourth time that Rose has held the first-round lead at the Masters to tie with Jack Nicklaus for the most first-round leads in tournament history.
Leishman, who was looking to become the second Australian to win The Masters after Adam Scott in 2013, posted a final round 1-over 73. The 37-year-old finished in a tie for fifth place at 6-under with Jon Rahm. The Spaniard, who started the final round 11 shots off the lead, carded a flawless 6-under 66 for the best round of the day.
Schauffele was paired with Matsuyama in the final group. The 2017 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year fell seven shots off the pace after dropping three shots over the opening six holes. The 27-year-old then made a remarkable recovery firing six birdies over the next nine holes. On the 16th tee, the world No. 6 was just two shots behind Matsuyama. Then, disaster struck! Schauffele dunked his tee shot into the water beside the par 3 green. His dream to earn his maiden major would end with a triple bogey seven. In 1041 previous holes, Schauffele never made a triple bogey in a major. The four-time PGA Tour winner ended up at 7-under for the event after an even par 72 and in a tie for third with compatriot Jordan Spieth. It was Schauffele’s eighth top 10 finish in 15 starts at majors.
Spieth advanced to 7-under for the event after a final round 2-under 70. It was the 27-year-old’s fifth top 5 result at The Masters in eight appearances. Spieth was attempting to join a small group at this week’s Masters and become just the sixth golfer to win at Augusta National Golf Club after winning the PGA Tour event that preceded the major championship. The last player to do it was Phil Mickelson in 2006. He did however create history of his own by becoming the first player ever the 85-year history of the event to make birdie at the 10th hole in all four rounds.
Zalatoris was the only player who made up ground on Matsuyama early on Sunday. The 24-year-old, who was one of three professionals making his Masters debut this week, made a birdie, birdie start to sit just one shot behind the leader after two holes. Playing in his 23rd PGA Tour event and third major championship, Zalatoris produced an outward nine 2-under 34 to get to 9-under for the event. He dropped shots at the 10th and 12th holes before making birdies down the final stretch at the 15th and 17th holes. Zalatoris signed for a final round 2-under 70 and rested at 9-under for the event to finish in outright second place. His previous best finish at a PGA Tour event was T5 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
Matsuyama enjoyed a comfortable margin in the lead for most of the round. After Zalatoris closed the gap to one shot at the start of the day, Matsuyma cleared away with three birdies over the front nine. He made the turn to Augusta’s notorious back nine with a five shot cushion. It matched the same size lead Spieth held entering the back nine on Sunday in 2016 before the defending champion pilled up a quadruple bogey seven at the dangerous par-3, 12th hole and finish in a tie for second three shots behind Danny Willett. Matsuyama held on to the five shot lead through 13 holes. After 15 holes, his lead was reduced to two shots. Schauffele had completed a string of four consecutive birdies, while Matsuyama made a bogey after finding the water behind the green at the par 5. With three holes to play, the first men’s major championship of the year was set up for a classic dramatic ending. However, any promise of a thrilling finale ended moments later with Schauffele making a seven at the par 3, 16th hole. Matsuyama had the luxury of making a bogey at the 72nd hole to claim his first major championship and sixth PGA Tour title.
Defending champion Dustin Johnson missed the cut after trying to be the first player since Tiger Woods in 2001-02 to win back-to-back Masters. The world No. 1 is the 11th player in the tournament’s history to miss the weekend during their title defense. Johnson’s rounds of 74-75 saw him finish at 5-over 149, two shots shy of the cut line at Augusta National.
The PGA Tour moves across state to South Carolina for the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head. Webb Simpson is the defending champion.
1. Hideki Matsuyama -10
2. Will Zalatoris -9
T3. Xander Schauffele -7
T3. Jordan Spieth -7
T5. Marc Leishman (AUS) -6
T5. Jon Rahm -6
T10. Cameron Smith -3
T26. Matt Jones +1
54. Adam Scott +11
MC. Jason Day
Photo credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images