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With anti-Asian violence on the rise in America, Hideki Matsuyama displayed class and dignity while making golf history

Hideki Matsuyama made history yesterday as the first player from an Asian country to win a Masters.

Hideki Matsuyama made history yesterday as the first participant from an Asian nation to win a Masters.
Photo: AP

Looking by way of the record of Masters winners, there are plenty of American Flags. It wasn’t till 1961, 27 years after the inaugural Masters (then known as the Augusta National Invitation Tournament) {that a} non-American received the event for the first time — Gary Player, of South Africa. Player received the event thrice between 1961 and 1978, and Seve Ballesteros of Spain received in 1980, representing the second non-American to win. As the sport continued to globalize extra and extra, we noticed winners sprout up from different European nations in the Eighties, together with Scotland, England, Wales, and Germany. This Masters Tournament, nonetheless, was fairly completely different.

The “tradition unlike any other” received a facelift yesterday with the victory of Hideki Matsuyama, who turned not solely the first Japanese golfer ever to win the Masters (or any main championship, for that matter), however the first golfer from any Asian nation to take action.

It’s been a protracted and gradual climb to the high of the American golf mountain for Japanese golf. Isao Aoki was tied for the lead with Jack Nicklaus after 54 holes at the 1980 U.S. Open. Tommy Nakajima completed third at the 1988 PGA, a decade after scoring a disastrous 13 on the thirteenth gap at Augusta. Masahiro Kuramoto completed T-4 at the 1982 British Open. Shigeki Maruyama had three profession top-10s at majors, along with his finest displaying being a T-4 at the 2004 U.S. Open. And Ryo Ishikawa was T-2 after 36 holes at the 2010 U.S. Open as a 19-year-old. But none reached the summit of profitable a serious.

Enter Hideki Matsuyama, a 29-year-old who was in a position to play Augusta National ten years in the past at the 2011 Masters, the place he was the lowest-scoring beginner. A decade later, he surged in the third spherical with a scorching 65, taking pictures six beneath par over the remaining eight holes. Heading into Sunday’s remaining spherical, Matsuyama held a four-shot lead, chased by Justin Rose, Xander Shauffele, Marc Leishman, and Will Zalatoris.

He by no means let go of that lead. Matsuyama’s stoic poise all through the day, regardless of a possible catastrophe on 15, carried him by way of to a one-stroke win after tapping in for bogey on 18. As the ball dropped into the gap, there was no demonstrative yell. No throwing of the golf equipment, or leaping, or falling to his knees and weeping — Matsuyama received the method he performed, with poise and calm. He picked up the ball, put it in his again pocket, tipped his hat, and grinned.

“When the final putt went in, I wasn’t really thinking of anything,” Matsuyama mentioned by way of an interpreter after his Masters victory. “And then, it started sinking in — the joy of being a Masters champion. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like, but what a thrill and honor it will be for me to take the green jacket back to Japan.”

And again to Japan he’ll take it. The coveted inexperienced jacket, tailor-made and awarded to the winner of the Masters annually, which might keep in the winner’s possession till the subsequent Masters, was with Matsuyama on his flight after his victory. As he waited for his industrial flight out of Atlanta this morning, casually dressed in sneakers and a T-shirt, trying by way of his telephone, the inexperienced jacket sat subsequent to him, draped over an airport seat.

In a time when racially-targeted violence in opposition to Asians and Asian-Americans has been on the rise, a golfer from the Land of the Rising Sun, talking by way of an interpreter, bringing house the world’s best {golfing} achievement while on American soil is a triumph of far more significance than simply sport. It’s a triumph for his nation, for range, for acceptance, and for the subsequent technology of worldwide golfers.

“Up until now, we haven’t had a major champion in Japan, maybe a lot of young golfers thought it was an impossibility,” he mentioned. “Hopefully this will set an example that it is possible and if they set their mind to it, they can do it, too.”

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