Wednesday, September 22

Hideki Matsuyama Tames Japan’s Golf Nerves to Boost the Pre-Olympic Spirit | Japan


Hideki Matsuyama has recorded one of Japan’s greatest international sporting successes after winning the US Golf Masters, just a few months before Tokyo is the site of the Summer Olympics.

His compatriots were preparing for work, perhaps pausing to catch a glimpse of the final holes on television, when the 29-year-old secured a one-shot victory over Xander Schauffele at the Augusta National Masters in Georgia.

With his final putt, Matsuyama became the first Asian player to don the green jacket and the only Japanese to win a major title. Two women from Japan have won majors: Hisako Higuchi at the 1977 LPGA Championship and Hinako Shibuno at the 2019 Women’s British Open.

A shocked Matsuyama, who has never been entirely comfortable with the enormous media attention he receives in Japan, acknowledged that his victory could boost golf in a country that has struggled to match its love of the sport with the big winners.

Matsuyama received the Green Jacket from last year’s winner, Dustin Johnson, a decade after he made his Masters amateur debut just weeks after his college town, Sendai, was hit by a deadly tsunami.

“I’m really happy. My nerves didn’t start in the second nine, it was from the beginning to the last putt,” Matsuyama said through an interpreter.

“I was thinking about my family all day and I am very happy to have played well for them. Hopefully, I will be a pioneer in this, and many other Japanese will follow. I’m happy to be able to open the floodgates hopefully and many more will follow. “

With the introductions and interviews done, Matsuyama finally relaxed in the warm afternoon light, raised her arms in triumph, and broke out into a wide smile.

A television interviewer in Tokyo thanked Matsuyama “on behalf of all of Japan,” while other sports figures offered their congratulations on social media.

Tomohiro Fukaya, the track cyclist for the national team, said he arrived early for morning practice and saw the last holes in his car. “The television commentators were so overwhelmed they could barely speak,” tweeted. “I too was on the verge of tears.”

Saburo Kawabuchi, a former director of the Japan Football Association, said he was concerned about his blood pressure after waking up in the middle of the night to watch Matsuyama keep his nerves on the last day of play. “It’s hard to find the right words to express how impressed I am,” he said. wrote.

Veteran Japanese golfer Isao Aoki, who finished second behind Jack Nicklaus at the 1980 US Open, also offered his congratulations. “His Masters victory, a first for Japan and Asia, is being celebrated not only by me, but by all golf fans in Japan,” he said in a statement.

Matsuyama’s victory was a much-needed story to feel good as Tokyo prepares to host an Olympics rife with scandals and security concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic. It also completed a successful fortnight for Japanese golfers in Augusta, after compatriot Tsubasa Kajitani won the Women’s Amateur Championship there on April 3.

Matsuyama, who four years ago accompanied Donald Trump and then-Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a round of golf at the Kasumigaseki Country Club, the sport’s headquarters in Tokyo 2020, admitted that he had only been sure of victory when hit the street. in the final hole.

“I think I destroyed everyone’s nerves, so I will try to win more emphatically next time,” he told Japanese television.




www.theguardian.com

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