The one stroke victory was more comfortable than it looked for Hideki
29-year-old Japanese Hideki Matsuyama shot a final round 1 over which was good enough to hold off the field on a day when only 3 players broke 70, to claim the first major title ever by a Japanese player. Hideki, who started the day 4 ahead of 4 players, had his lead narrowed to 2 after 2 holes but then steadied himself to extend his lead to 5 strokes after 13 holes . Although minor mistakes led to bogeys on the easy par 5 15th and 16th, he reached the 18th with a two stroke lead. When he nailed his drive in the center of the fairway, it was all but over. Although Hideki missed a 5 foot par putt, he safely tapped in his bogey to clinch the title by one stroke from a fast charging Will Zalatoris, playing his first ever Masters.
As called on Japanese TV: pic.twitter.com/03c4Chvc9q
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) April 11, 2021
Matsuyama’s performance in the pressure packed final round was more impressive than his 73 score suggests. He drove the ball in the fairway for the most part, especially when it mattered. His iron shots were dialled in especially on tough holes like 7, 9, 14 and 17, where he was within 10 feet.
On several holes, where he missed the green, his chipping was magical, getting it up and down on the 13th for birdie from a treacherous downhill lie behind the green. In fact his bogey on the par 5, 15th was more caused by the adrenaline rush in his blood, released, no doubt, by his 5 stroke lead at that stage. His long iron approach shot from some 200 yards plus was struck on target but flew the green. The ball hit on the hard downslope and raced into the water 30 yards beyond. He showed fabulous touch there with a bump and run and earlier also judged one perfectly from behind the green on the par 5, 8th, getting to tap in range for a crucial birdie which steadied his nerves.
His one bad drive on the 5th ended in a deep fairway bunker. After pitching out, he hit his 100 yard wedge to 20 feet and then drained the putt for a par, in the form of a to be champion. Even his bogey on the par 3, 16th wasn’t as a result of a poor shot. His tee shot flew perfectly to the center of the green from where it was designed to catch the ridge and glide towards the pin. How it stayed on the higher level of the green is a mystery but from there, the best he could do with a 30 foot putt that broke 25 feet to the left, was putt to 8 feet .
He played in a very poised and controlled manner, occasionally smiling at his caddy. We should see a lot more of Matsuyama now that he has achieved this milestone victory.