US Masters final round - Major triumph for Japan

Hideki Matsuyama hopes his Masters victory will “open the floodgates” for his fellow Japanese players.

Perfect fit|: Hideki Matsuyama puts on the champion's green jacket with help from Dustin Johnson after winning the Masters. Picture: AP Photo/David J Phillip

A decade after finishing as the leading amateur at Augusta National, Matsuyama survived a nervous start and a late stumble to become the first male Japanese player to win a major championship.

The 29-year-old was cruising to victory until inexplicably going for the par-five 15th in two and firing his approach over the green into the water, the resulting two-shot swing seeing his lead cut in half.

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However, nearest rival Xander Schauffele then pulled his tee shot on the 16th into the water to end his chances and allow Matsuyama the luxury of completing a closing 73 to finish a shot ahead of debutant Will Zalatoris.

Speaking through a translator, Matsuyama said: “I’m really happy. My nerves didn’t start on the second nine, it was right from the start and right to the very last putt.

“I was thinking about my family all the way round today and I’m really happy that I played well for them.

“Hopefully I’ll be a pioneer in this and many other Japanese will follow and I’m glad to be able to open the floodgates hopefully and many more will follow me.”

Schauffele had recovered from a double bogey on the fifth with birdies on the seventh and eighth and made four more in a row from the 12th before his decisive mistake on the 16th.

“I was coming in hot, feeling good,” Schauffele said. “Hideki surprisingly went for the green on 15 so I felt like he gave me a little bit of hope there.

“I was maybe a little hyper-aggressive there on 16. If I had a lead I would have bailed out right and I think that’s the shot on the hole, I just haven’t hit it enough.

“I fought hard. It was a messy start and Hideki was robot-like for 13 holes and didn’t make a mistake. I felt like I gave him a little bit of a run and a little bit of excitement and unfortunately hit it in the drink there.

“If you look at my career you could call it a big ball of scar tissue with a bunch of second places. I don’t look at it that way.

“I hit a good shot, I committed to it but it turned out bad. I’ll be able to sleep tonight. I might be tossing and turning but I’ll be okay.”

Hideki Matsuyama recovered from a nervy start and survived a late self-inflicted wound to claim his first major title in the 85th Masters.

A decade after finishing as the leading amateur at Augusta National, Matsuyama became the first male Japanese player to win a major championship, cementing his superstar status in his home country.

The 29-year-old was cruising to victory until a two-shot swing on the 15th saw his lead cut in half, only for nearest rival Xander Schauffele to promptly find the water with his tee shot on the 16th.

A closing 73 gave Matsuyama a winning total of 10 under par, one shot ahead of debutant Zalatoris, with Schauffele and 2015 champion Jordan Spieth two strokes further back.

Spain’s Jon Rahm surged through the field with a 66 to share fifth with Australia’s Marc Leishman, with Justin Rose another stroke back following a disappointing 74.

Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre birdied the 18th to claim a tie for 12th on his tournament debut and secure an invitation to return next April.

Matsuyama took a four-shot lead into the final round, but within 15 minutes of teeing off the gap was down to a single stroke.

Zalatoris holed from 25 feet for birdie on the first and also got up and down from a greenside bunker to birdie the par-five second as Matsuyama pushed his tee shot into the trees on the opening hole.

After punching out on to the fairway and hitting a poor pitch, Matsuyama narrowly failed to save par from long range, but bounced back immediately to birdie the second.

With Zalatoris making a bogey on the third the lead was quickly back to three, but Zalatoris then birdied the eighth just moments before Matsuyama missed from three feet for birdie on the seventh.

However, Matsuyama also birdied the eighth and ninth to take a five-shot lead into the back nine after Zalatoris, who was bidding to become the first player to win the Masters on their debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, three-putted the 10th.

Matsuyama bogeyed the 12th and was fortunate to escape trouble with both his tee shot and approach to the 13th, where playing partner Schauffele hit a super second to 10 feet.

But Schauffele was unable to convert the eagle putt and Matsuyama got up and down from left of the green for a matching birdie to seemingly remain in complete command.

Schauffele kept up the pressure with another birdie on the 14th and was given renewed hope when Matsuyama inexplicably went for the par-five 15th in two and fired his approach over the green and into the water.

Matsuyama’s bogey and a fourth straight birdie from Schauffele meant the lead was just two, only for Schauffele to amazingly pull his tee shot on the 16th into the water.

A triple bogey ended Schauffele’s chances despite Matsuyama three-putting from the top tier and Matsuyama had the luxury of being able to bogey the last and secure the title.

Final round scores(USA unless stated, par 72):

278 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) 69 71 65 73

279 Will Zalatoris 70 68 71 70

281 Xander Schauffele 72 69 68 72, Jordan Spieth 71 68 72 70

282 Marc Leishman (Aus) 72 67 70 73, Jon Rahm (Spa) 72 72 72 66

283 Justin Rose (Eng) 65 72 72 74

284 Corey Conners (Can) 73 69 68 74, Patrick Reed 70 75 70 69

285 Tony Finau 74 66 73 72, Cameron Smith (Aus) 74 68 73 70

286 Stewart Cink 74 69 72 71, Brian Harman 69 69 74 74, Si Woo Kim (Kor) 71 69

74 72, Robert MacIntyre (Sco) 74 70 70 72, Kevin Na 75 70 70 71, Webb Simpson 70

76 70 70

287 Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 71 74 74 68, Collin Morikawa 73 69 75 70, Scottie

Scheffler 73 72 71 71

288 Harris English 74 71 73 70, Viktor Hovland (Nor) 73 70 72 73, Shane Lowry

(Irl) 71 73 72 72, Phil Mickelson 75 72 69 72, Justin Thomas 73 67 75 73

289 Abraham Ancer (Mex) 75 69 75 70, Paul Casey (Eng) 73 74 73 69, Cameron

Champ 72 68 77 72, Matt Jones (Aus) 74 69 74 72, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 76 70 72

71, Ian Poulter (Eng) 74 73 72 70, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) 74 71 72 72, Bubba

Watson 74 70 73 72

290 Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng) 74 70 73 73, Ryan Palmer 74 68 73 75, Michael

Thompson 72 72 75 71, Matt Wallace (Eng) 74 72 71 73

291 Martin Laird (Sco) 74 71 72 74, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 73 71 71 76

292 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa) 70 76 74 72, Mackenzie Hughes (Can) 72 72 72

76, Sebastian Munoz (Col) 74 73 71 74, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 75 71 70 76, Bernd

Wiesberger (Aut) 74 66 74 78, Gary Woodland 73 72 75 72

293 Bryson DeChambeau 76 67 75 75, Tommy Fleetwood (Eng) 74 70 73 76, Brendon

Todd 73 71 76 73

295 Jason Kokrak 71 76 71 77

296 Billy Horschel 76 71 73 76, Jose Maria Olazabal (Spa) 75 71 75 75

297 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 74 73 69 81

298 Jim Herman 76 70 76 76

299 Adam Scott (Aus) 74 73 79 73