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Tears and cheers as Matsuyama victory at Masters thrills Japan

Hideki Matsuyama is awarded the Masters green jacket by 2020 champion and world number one Dustin Johnson*

Thrilled Japanese fans welcomed Hideki Matsuyama’s historic Masters victory yesterday, with broadcasters close to tears and the country’s prime minister hailing the win as a bright spot during the pandemic.

“Matsuyama Masters” trended on Twitter after the 29-year-old earned himself a place in history by becoming the first Japanese man to capture a major golf title.

“Matsuyama opens the door of history,” declared the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

In Japan, the one-stroke victory came early yesterday morning, with some broadcasters carrying live footage of his final round 73 that saw him finish on 10-under par.

On private station TBS, broadcasters and commentators choked up as Matsuyama sank the final putt to claim the green jacket symbolic of Masters supremacy.

“Congratulations. Thank you,” a presenter said as two golf commentators next to him struggled to hold back tears.

TV networks ran breaking news flashes announcing the victory and several newspapers published special editions usually reserved only for major stories.

On Twitter, fans flooded to congratulate the country’s new sporting hero.

“I can’t see through my tears,” one fan wrote.

Even Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga weighed in, telling reporters the performance had been “really wonderful.”

“I think it encouraged and excited people across Japan at a time when the impact from coronavirus is lingering,” he said. “It is a great achievement.”

Public broadcaster NHK carried interviews with delighted residents of the golfer’s hometown – Matsuyama city in western Japan’s Ehime.

“It’s great news that will encourage everyone,” one middle-aged man said.

“I hope this brilliant achievement by such a young man will offer hope for everyone,” he added.

Matsuyama, who held off Americans Will Zalatoris, Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth to claim the $2.07 million winner’s prize, is only the second Asian man to triumph in a golf major, after South Korea’s Yang Yong-eun won the 2009 PGA Championship.

Ranked 25th, he had not won since the 2017 WGC Akron tournament, but calmly ground out clutch pars and struck for crucial birdies in a pressure-packed march to glory at Augusta National.

Japan’s two previous major golf titles belonged to women, Chako Higuchi at the 1977 LPGA Championship and Hinako Shibuno at the 2019 Women’s British Open.

And the best previous major showings by Japanese men had been Isao Aoki’s runner-up place at the 1980 US Open and Matsuyama’s share of second at the 2017 US Open.

In Matsuyama city, one resident said the hometown hero’s win was some much-needed light relief. “I’m so happy to hear it, as we haven’t had much good news lately,” the young woman told NHK. “It is now clear that a Japanese player can win. As I keep doing my best, I want you to do your best too, and keep dreaming of playing in a major,” Matsuyama told TBS when asked for a message to children in Japan.*AFP

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