Japan has been waiting for such a feat for 85 years. And Hideki Matsuyama did. He became the first Japanese to win the Augusta Masters on Sunday April 11 in Georgia, United States. Since 1936, the date of the first participation of a Japanese in one of the most prestigious tournaments on the golf planet, the country had been waiting for such a success.
Hideki Matsuyama thus made this dream a reality, where his compatriots, Isao Aoki, Tommy Nakajima or even Shigeki Maruyama, all world-class players produced by the archipelago, have never achieved it before him. “I can’t say I’m the tallest. However, I’m the first to win a Major. And if that’s the bar, then I set it,” replied the 29-year-old to the American press asking him if his feat made him the greatest Japanese player in history. If Hideki Matsuyama humbly prefers to assume a pioneer status, this success remains unique in more than one way. Not only will this sixth victory on the American PGA Tour – the first in more than four years – mark a turning point in his career (he also has two wins in WGC World Championship tournaments), but it also allows him to match. the number of victories accumulated by all the other Japanese players across the Atlantic.
“Matsuyama opens the doors of history”
The whole country hailed the historic victory of Hideki Matsuyama, from the television channels to the Prime Minister, who sees it as a “great success” in the midst of a pandemic. “Matsuyama opens the doors of history”, meanwhile trumpeted the newspaper Asahi.
Already considered a star in Japan, his coronation took him to another dimension, which Tiger Woods did not fail to highlight on Twitter. “You make Japan proud, Hideki. Congratulations on this huge accomplishment for you and your country. This historic Masters victory will have an impact on the golf world as a whole,” congratulated the great absentee of this edition.
In a circle of legends in Augusta
In 1997, Tiger Woods, then 21, had filled America with enthusiasm, sparking a “Tiger-mania”, which made more than a generation of young people, from all walks of life and all origins, want to follow his path. . Born in … Matsuyama (in the south of the archipelago) on February 25, 1992, Hideki Matsuyama, like his glorious elder, hit his first balls from an early age, at 4 years old (Woods was 2), and he was obviously bottle fed to the exploits of the 15 Major man. His father also taught him the sport, even going so far as to make him change schools to stimulate his game.
In 2011, he wrote the first chapter of a happy story with the Augusta Masters, becoming the first Japanese amateur to take part and the only one to pass the cut. His 27th place allows him to win the Silver Cup, awarded to the best non-professional in the running. World number one amateur in 2012, he turned professional the following year. On Sunday, he entered a very closed circle, that of the players who managed to distinguish themselves as the best amateur in Augusta before winning thereafter. There were six of them before him, including a few game legends: Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Cary Middlecoff, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia.
Often placed before being sacred
His rise has been discreet but meteoric in recent years and Hideki Matsuyama had already turned several times around the coronation in the Majors: first sixth at the British Open in 2013, then fifth at the Masters in 2015, fourth at the USPGA in 2016 and finally second in the US Open 2017. That year, thanks to his last two tournament victories (before that of Sunday), he had even reached the 2nd world rank.
The excitement in Japan is not about to abate. This country, which had 17 million licensees in 2016 for 2,500 courses, twice as many as any American state, now holds its international star and is surely dreaming of Olympic gold, three and a half months before the Tokyo Olympics tournament.