Golfing history now beckons for the Land of the Rising Sun with Hideki Matsuyama just 18 holes away from delivering Japan a long overdue first male Major Champion in the 2021 Masters at Augusta National
The 29-year-old will take a four-shot lead into the last day of the 85th Masters after a stunning third round display that saw him produce a bogey-free seven-under par third day 65 to move to 11-under par.
Matsuyama was the only player, on a day delayed by some 75-minutes due to a storm, not to drop a shot on the Georgia golfing gem. Incredibly, Matsuyama was just one-under for his opening 10 holes but stormed home with a 15th hole eagle and four birdies, earning him Augusta crystalware for the lowest round of the day and the eagle at ‘Firethorn’.
This week’s Masters is the 455th Major Championship in the men’s game to be played since the inaugural Open Championship in 1860 – 85 Masters, 102 PGA Championships, 120 US Open’s and 148 Open’s.
Japan does boast two female golfers who have won Majors – Hisako Higuchi captured the 1977 LPGA Championship and Hinako Shibuno won the 2019 Women’s British Open on her Major debut. The closest a Japanese male golfer has come to victory at the game’s highest level was Matsuyama in finishing joint runner-up to Brooks Koepka in the 2017 US Open at Shinnecock Hills on New York’s Long Island.
Now the quietly-spoken, media-shy Matsuyama, a winner 14 tournaments in his pro career including five on the PGA Tour, is on target to be fitted with aN Augusta National members green jacket. Matsuyama was asked post his third round what it would be like to become a Masters Champion and also the first male golfer to win a Major for Japan.
“I’m not sure how to answer the question. All I can do is prepare well, try my best, and do the best that I can tomorrow,” he said.
And whether or not he does create male golfing history, Matsuyama singled out Augusta National for what the club has done for his career having finished the ‘Low Amateur’ in the 2007 Masters.
“I came here for a first time in 2007 and fortunately was able to finish Low Amateur, and that experience and that — knowing I could play with other professionals really gave me a lot of confidence. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the members of Augusta National because I wouldn’t be here today without them.
“I have a lot of great memories watching the Masters as a young boy. First time I watched, Tiger Woods was the winner. Another great memory is when he chipped in at 16 down the hill, that putt just going in. I was always dreaming some day I could play here.”
Japan is already known as a golf mad country but can you imagine the impact should Matsuyama win later today?