Hideki Matsuyama is back in Augusta, Ga., taking a shot at winning a second consecutive ceremonial green jacket.
Matsuyama, 30, and a former teenage prodigy, set records last 12 months when he won the Masters by one stroke, becoming the tournament’s first Asian-born champion and the primary Japanese man to win a serious golf championship.
Notably missing from last 12 months’s tournament was Tiger Woods, who didn’t compete due to a serious leg injury he sustained in a automotive crash that February. His absence opened the door for a latest era of younger golfers to showcase their skills on the game’s biggest stage.
Still, Matsuyama was positioned as anything however the potential champion.
Coming into the 2021 Masters, Matsuyama was ranked twenty fifth on the earth and had not won a tournament since 2017. Yet a sparkling 65 within the third round gave Matsuyama a head start for his victory lap: He entered the last round with a four-stroke advantage and shot a one-over-par 73 to complete the tournament at 10 under par, only one stroke ahead of Will Zalatoris, the 25-year-old Masters rookie from San Francisco. Zalatoris’s second-place finish helped raise his profile inside the golfing community.
Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth, also from the USA, tied for third at seven under par.
Matsuyama, who learned golf from his father, had long been lionized in Japan and seen because the country’s best likelihood to interrupt through at golf’s biggest tournament. Two Japanese women, Hisako Higuchi and Hinako Shibuno, have been major champions.
Matsuyama isn’t a favourite heading into this 12 months’s tournament — Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have the shortest odds at roughly 12-1 — however the games are only just starting.