By Miles Barksdale
As he calmly walked down the final hole of the Masters Tournament, Hideki Matsuyama exuded a sense of confidence that only 53 other golfers had shown before. He had been struggling down the stretch of the final round with three bogeys, but still he was not phased — he knew was about to put on the legendary green jacket.
With this victory he became Japan’s first male major winner and a national icon.
With a calmness that he had radiated during the other 71 holes, Matsuyama easily hit in a short putt that clinched the tournament. His dream was finally realized.
Matsuyama finished the tournament with a score of 10-under-par. He had the clear advantage going into the final round of the tournament as he held a four stroke lead. He remained ahead to the finish. Runner up Will Zalatoris finished with a score of 9-under-par and Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth both tied for third at 7-under-par.
“It was an impressive win for him,” said Devan Nieradka, a sophomore interdisciplinary business major. “He played well when it mattered the most.”
But Matsuyama’s victory was not certain from the start. According to The PGA Tour leaderboard, in round one, Justin Rose led the field with a score of seven under par with a four stroke advantage over Brian Harman and Matsuyama (-3) who both tied for second place.
In round two, Justin Rose shot even par and remained at (-7) while Will Zalatoris scored (-6) and Marc Leishman shot (-5). Matsuyama remained at (-4) for the round. Some notable players who got cut during the second round included last year’s Masters winner Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy.
The third round is when Matsuyama began to establish himself from the rest of the pack. He played a masterful round which included one eagle, five birdies and no bogeys. This brought his round score to 7-under-par and left him at (-11) for the tournament. Will Zalatoris, Marc Leishman, Xander Schauffele and Justin Rose all tied at second place with a score of (-7) for the tournament going into the fourth and final round.
The fourth round saw Matsuyama maintain his lead despite stumbling at certain holes during the day. Initially he was able to expand his lead to six strokes during the first half of the round, but he shot three bogeys during the final few holes and made the margin of victory appear closer.
This year’s Masters Tournament, while still affected by restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, had returned to a sense of normalcy. According to Augusta, the previous years’ Masters Tournament had been heavily affected due to the pandemic. The tournament was postponed to Nov. 12 to 15 of last year and had taken place without any spectators.
Now with eased restrictions, the tournament returned to its original timeline of April 8 to 11 instead of starting in November like last year. Continuing on with old tradition, three of golf’s premier names, Gary Player, Lee Elder and Jack Nicklaus, lined up as honorary starters to tee off the tournament. Spectators returned in limited numbers to the Augusta National Golf Course for the first time in over a year.
“Covid had a really big impact on the Masters last year,” Nieradka said. “I was excited to see the tournament taking place at normal dates and with an actual audience.”
While some aspects of the tournament were normal, restrictions were still enforced. Social distancing and mask wearing were mandatory on the course and there were limitations on International travel for members of the media.
“With fewer media, it’s been a lot less stressful for me,” Matsuyama told the New York Times.
While the lack of media presence might’ve propelled his incredible performance, there is no doubt that with his Masters win, the media will continue to follow him for a very long time. As Japan’s first male major winner, Matsuyama will be revered in his home country. With a myriad of fans cheering him on, the next chapter in his golf legacy will be soon written.