Matsuyama’s place in gaming history is sealed
Whatever the result of the Master,
The same golf gods who secured a historic first Masters triumph for Asia some 12 months ago are now called upon to ensure Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama is fully fit to defend his title this week.
His monumental one-shot win at Augusta National propelled a golf-loving nation to dizzying heights, leading thousands of enthusiasts to flock to the driving ranges, buy the same golf equipment he uses and playing at local golf courses while emulating his mark of pausing on the backswing as Matsuyama-mania gripped Japan.
As the country’s long-awaited first major men’s champion, it culminated in the receipt of the Prime Minister’s Award as Matsuyama was hailed as a hero upon his return to his homeland.
Subsequent victories at the Zozo Championship, the only PGA Tour tournament in Japan, and the Sony Open in Hawaii during a spectacular nine-month golf spell are now suddenly forgotten as he retired from his last two events, the Players Championship in early March and the Texas Open last week, due to a troubling neck and back injury.
The 30-year-old said he pulled out of Texas to preserve his body and channel all of his focus and energy into returning to Augusta.
It may not be the best preparation for the first major of the year, but for those who remember it well, Matsuyama set foot on Georgia’s hallowed turf a year ago without hinting that he would adorn the green jacket, until something “clicked” in practice. range on the eve of the Masters.
Whether or not Matsuyama is 100% fit, he’s sure to be the reigning Masters champion and break through any pain barrier until he can’t take it anymore.
Japanese athletes take great pride in representing their flag and Matsuyama will be no different.
Winning the Masters has been a lifelong goal since he made his Augusta debut in 2011, thanks to a decisive victory at the 2010 Asia-Pacific (AAC) Amateur Championship in Tokyo – an event created by Augusta National, the R&A and the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation. to support game development in the Far East.
Matsuyama was rather fortuitous as he only entered the AAC field after hosts Japan received four additional spots on top of the initial six spots.
“It was a great blessing to become the Masters champion. It was great to go to various tournaments and be presented as the Masters champion,” he said.
“Being the first Japanese to win a major tournament, and especially the Masters, made me really happy. I know I’m a happier person.”
Ahead of his cut short week in Texas, Matsuyama told a press conference that he often sets his own expectations, which ultimately drove his vast success where he is now an eight-time PGA Tour winner.
“Looking forward is one way of saying it, another is that I really hope to play well. There are expectations of myself whether it’s pressure or not,” he said. .
As the clock ticks towards the 86th Masters, every Japanese golf fan will be on the edge of their seat to see if Matsuyama will be in top form and put up a strong defense.
But in his own way, there’s really nothing Matsuyama needs to do or prove other than to enjoy being called the 2021 Masters champion on the first tee.
He’s already inspired thousands of kids in Japan, Thailand and across Asia to aim for the stars and there’s no doubt he’ll win many more PGA Tour wins, if not a few more green jackets. His place in golf history is already etched, no matter what happens this week.