The Masters: Matsuyama victory has taken golf up a notch, says Player

By Sports Desk April 13, 2021

Hideki Matsuyama's maiden major triumph has elevated golf to a new level, according to Gary Player.

Matsuyama entered the history books as he became the first Japanese man to prevail at a major after winning The Masters on Sunday.

The 29-year-old, with five PGA Tour titles under his belt prior to his Augusta triumph, held his nerve to win by one shot and claim the famed green jacket.

Matsuyama (2011) became the third Masters champion in the last five years to have previously earned low amateur honours, following in the footsteps of Tiger Woods (2019, low amateur in 1995) and Sergio Garcia (2017, low amateur in 1999).

Having clocked up seven top-10 finishes across golf's four headline tournaments, Matsuyama catapulted himself into esteemed company with his Georgia glory and Player, a nine-time major winner, knows there is a huge gap between winners and also-rans. 

And he feels Matsuyama's success has taken the sport "up a notch".

"Now you see there are lots of ifs and ands, but finishing second, only your wife and your dog knows about it – that's if you've got a good dog," the South African, who donned the green jacket three times, told Stats Perform News.

"So now he comes along and he wins the Masters in great style and I said to him, 'I'm very happy that you won because you can be president or prime minister of Japan and I won't need a visa!'.

"No, his play was exemplary, he kept his cool, and what wins golf tournaments is not long driving as we are brainwashed about, it's the putter and the mind.

"I'm so happy he won because I want to see people win golf tournaments where golf is going to be the benefactor.

"More clubs will be sold around the world now and golf went up a notch. I always wanted to have the best world record as a global golfer, not just in America only, so for me to see an international player win, I'm always happy to see anybody win but it's going to do golf so much good. I can't tell you.

"If this wasn't during COVID you would have had people flying over from Japan the night before, the press people. He would have had 60 representatives of the media in Japan because they've been thirsting and hungry and starved for a major championship winner. And a golfing nation of that status has been deprived of that, and there they've got it at last. Thank goodness."

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    Hideki Matsuyama produced a stunning second shot on the first playoff hole to claim victory at the Sony Open in Hawaii as he triumphed over Russell Henley.

    The reigning Masters champion had trailed by five strokes on the back nine but produced a surge capped with a birdie at the last to force a playoff with Henley after both finished 23 under par.

    Henley's putt on the 18th to win the tournament skimmed the outside edge of the hole and he was left to rue that miss in quite astonishing fashion.

    They returned to the same hole for the playoff and Matsuyama, having gone for the 3-wood off the tee, elected to use the same club for his second shot from 277 yards away and could not have hit it any better, sending it to three feet for an eagle putt to secure his eighth PGA Tour title and his third in less than a year as Henley made bogey.

    Waialae Country Club holds a special place in Japanese golf history, with it being the course where Isao Aoki became the first player from the country to win on the PGA Tour.

    And Matsuyama was thrilled to replicate his achievement.

    "I got on a roll, I'm glad it came out this way," said Matsuyama. "To follow him [Aoki] up, I'm over the moon."

    Kevin Kisner and Seamus Power were Matsuyama and Henley's closest challengers, finishing in a tie for third, four strokes off the pace.

  • Henley leads by two shots as Matsuyama surges up leaderboard Henley leads by two shots as Matsuyama surges up leaderboard

    Russell Henley remains in the lead ahead of the final day of the Sony Open in Hawaii but 2021 Masters Championship winner Hideki Matsuyama surged into contention on Saturday.

    Henley carded a three-under-round of 67 to maintain his lead after being three strokes ahead at the halfway mark at the Waialae Country Club.

    Japanese 29-year-old Matsuyama, though, moved up the leaderboard into second spot, two shots behind Henley, with a seven-under-63 to be 16 under overall.

    Henley leads at 18 under, with Matsuyama 16 under, before four players are tied at 14 under in third in Adam Svensson, Seamus Power, Matt Kuchar and Haotong Li.

    The American, who won the Sony Open in 2013, had two bogeys and five birdies in his round, including a 16-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to buffer his lead after Matsuyama made his move earlier in the day.

    Matsuyama, who carded rounds of 66 and 65 on the first two days, improved with a day-three 63 headlined by four birdies in his final seven holes.

    Svensson and Power both hit five-under-rounds of 65 to remain in contention, while Kuchar and Li are close but carded rounds of three-under and two-under to fail to close on Henley.

  • Former champion Henley hits two eagles to claim three-stroke lead at Sony Open Former champion Henley hits two eagles to claim three-stroke lead at Sony Open

    American Russell Henley holds a three-stroke lead at the halfway mark of the Sony Open in Hawaii after a seven-under-63 on Friday.

    Henley, who won the Sony Open in 2013, carded an eight-under-62 on the opening day and backed that up to be 15-under and three shots ahead of second-placed Haotong Li.

    Li along with third-placed Matt Kuchar and equal fourth Chris Kirk all carded rounds of five-under-65.

    Kirk is one of 10 players tied for fourth alongside Seamus Power, Stewart Cink, Corey Conners, Adam Svensson, Keita Nakajima, Davis Riley, Dylan Wu, Brandt Snedeker, Payton Kizzire and 2021 Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama.

    Henley's seven-under-63 was a round-best alongside Cink and Charles Howell III who both surged up the leaderboard.

    The 32-year-old American had an even card on the second round before holing a bunker shot for eagle on the 18th hole, his ninth hole of the day.

    Henley came home strong with four birdies and an eagle in his final six holes, including a 29-foot eagle putt. He has three PGA Tour titles across his career, the last being in 2017.

    Veteran Jim Furyk dropped well off the pace after his fast start, with a two-over-round of 72 leaving him six under at halfway, while day one leader Kevin Na slipped to eight under after a round of one-over-71.

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