He might not be providing the grandstand finish golf fans were hoping for during the final round of the Masters, but Hideki Matsuyama’s dominant performance at Augusta National is going to make him very rich.
Holding a five-shot lead with six holes to play, the 29-year-old is in an almost uncatchable position as he seeks to become the first Japanese man to win a major.
Masters win ‘worth a billion dollars’
A Matsuyama victory will likely make him the most famous athlete in Japan and could make him a billionaire, according to two-time US Open winner Andy North.
“There is more pressure on Hideki to win this major championship than any player who has ever had a chance to win a major,” North said on ESPN.
“It would change golf in Japan — and Japan has been a golf-crazed nation for years … they adore anyone who plays this game.
“I can’t even imagine how much money this would mean to him, besides being the King of Japan. This is not a crazy person talking, a win here would be worth a billion dollars.”
Matsuyama is ranked 37th on the list of golf’s all-time money leaders with $41 million. Tiger Woods is first with $159 million.
The winner of this year’s Masters will take home $2.8 million (AUD).
There are also predictions Matsuyama will be asked to carry the Olympic flag for Japan at the Tokyo Games later this year if he’s successful.
Matsuyama is one of two Japanese men to finish runner-up at a major after finished second to Brooks Koepka at the 2017 US Open.
Two Japanese women have won majors — Hinako Shibuno at the 2019 British Open and Chako Higuchi at the 1977 LGPA Championship.
The only Asian man to win a major is South Korea’s Yang Yong-eun at the 2009 PGA Championship.
Matsuyama will also join legends like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as one of seven golfers to finish as the low amateur at the Masters — Matsuyama did it in 2011 — and then go on to win the event as a pro.
Hideki Matsuyama looks over a putt on the sixth green. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
How it’s played out on final day
Matsuyama, who began the final day with a four-stroke lead at windy Augusta National, grinded out pars as rivals stumbled and added back-to-back birdies to close the front nine with American Will Zalatoris the only rival less than seven shots back.
Matsuyama sent his opening tee shot well right into trees, punched out off pine straw short of the green, then pitched on and just missed a 25-foot par putt.
At the par-5 second, Matsuyama found a greenside bunker but blasted out and tapped in for birdie to return to 11-under overall.
Matsuyama saved par at the fifth on a 20-foot par putt. He missed a three-foot birdie putt at the seventh but responded by making three footers to birdie the par-5 eighth and par-4 ninth and reach 13-under.
Zalatoris, trying to be the first player to win the Masters in his debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, opened birdie-birdie but missed a five-foot par putt at the third.
A 14-foot birdie putt at the eighth lifted Zalatoris but he stumbled back to 8-under with a bogey at the 10th.
Spain’s third-ranked Jon Rahm, who fired level par in each of the first three rounds, fired a six-under par 66 to seize the clubhouse lead at six-under 282.
Rahm, a new father who arrived only on the eve of the event, had a birdie-eagle start and birdies at the par-5 eighth, par-3 12th and par-5 15th but was still seven back of Matsuyama, sharing third with American Xander Schauffele.
One after another, Matsuyama’s other rivals fell back on the front nine. England’s Justin Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, had three bogeys in the first five holes while Australia’s Marc Leishman made three bogeys in the first seven and US three-time major winner Jordan Spieth had three bogeys in the first six holes.
Schauffele had back-to-back bogeys just before a double bogey at the fifth while Canada’s Corey Conners had back-to-back bogeys before a double bogey at the seventh.
— with AFP
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