Matsuyama is the first Japanese player to win the Masters

HIDEKI Matsuyama has won the 2021 Masters Tournament, becoming the first man from Japan to win one of four major golf championships.

Matsuyama shot a 10-yard par over the four-day tournament held at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, finishing one shot ahead of American Will Zalatoris

. Minutes later, Matsuyama, who is 25 in the world, wore the fabled green jacket awarded to Masters winners. A decade earlier, he had finished as the lowest-scoring amateur at the 2011 event as a 19-year-old.

Matsuyama, 29, had already established himself as the best Japanese golfer in history with five wins on the US PGA Tour, and rose as high as second in the world ranks, in 2017.

He suffered his form thereafter, however, and failed to win a tournament for nearly four years. Her victory came just one week after Tsubasa Kajitani of Japan won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, a best competition the club started in 2019 for non-professional women players.

Matsuyama took control of the tournament on Saturday afternoon, when he parked six under on the back nine of the third round to take the lead from four strokes to the final

Solid play and mistakes from rivals allowed him to increase his lead to as many as six shots by mid-Sunday. But his edge faded when Matsuyama found green water on the long 15th.

His playing partner, Xander Schauffele of the United States, came within two shots with birdies – but he blew his chance in the very next hole with a triple bogey after watching his shot slide troubled into the lake on the 16th short. Despite two other late innings, including on the 18th, Matsuyama continued on, leaving him with a slim margin of victory over Zalatoris.

“Hopefully, I will be a pioneer and many other Japanese will follow,” said Matsuyama through a simultaneous translator during the presentation of the green jacket at the Butler Cabin. “I’m pleased to be able to open the sluice gates, hopefully, and many more will follow me.”

The Masters were played just days after Georgia Republicans enacted an election bill that critics said targeted black voters. In response to a rebellion over the law, Major League Baseball moved this summer’s All-Star Game to Colorado.

Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley refused to condemn the law but said “[n]o one should be disadvantaged in exercising that right [to vote]”.

Ridley also rejected calls for a boycott, saying “those actions often place the greatest burdens on the most vulnerable in society”.

The elite Masters and golf circles have long been crowded with accusations of exclusion on the grounds of race and sex. The 2021 tournament began on Thursday when Lee Elder, who became 1975 the first black man to play at the Masters, was invited to join the ceremonial game alongside six-time winner Jack Nicklaus and three-time champion Gary Player. Times)