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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    McIlroy ended Friday's action at three-under, keeping himself in contention behind Ludvig Aberg, Matthieu Pavon, Patrick Cantlay and a host of other big names.

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    Aberg, Pavon and Cantlay were among the leaders as Friday's action drew to a close, with Bryson DeChambeau one shot ahead of McIlroy, alongside Thomas Detry.

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    Detry made a splash as he carded an impressive 67. At one stage, the Belgian held the lead after reaching six-under for the day through 14 holes, though he slipped back slightly with two bogeys in his last four. 

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    PGA Championship winner Xander Schauffele is at one-under after posting a 69, but it was a tougher day for world number one Scottie Sheffler, who faces an anxious wait to see whether he made the cut after ending Friday five-over. 

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