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Hideki Matsuyama wins 2021 Masters, becoming a national hero in Japan

On April 11th Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama officially won the Masters Tournament, becoming a national hero overnight. The Masters Tournament is the first of four annual global golf tournaments collectively referred to as the Majors, the other three being the PGA Championship, the U.S. Open, and The Open Championship. 

Matsuyama is only the second Asian man to win any of the four major tournaments, with South Korea’s Yang Young-eun being the first. He won the PGA Championship in 2009. 

Matsuyama’s win comes a decade after he first appeared at the Augusta National as a 19-year-old amateur. He went on to win the low-amateur trophy then, and now he is finally putting on the green jacket after a Masters win on the same course. 

In what seems like a ripple effect, Matsuyama’s win came just one week after fellow Japanese golfer Tsubasa Kajitani won the second annual Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Perhaps this rising amateur can compete alongside Matsuyama in the future to create a Japanese duo at the top of the sport — regardless of gender. 

However, Matsuyama wasn’t the favorite to win the tournament. In fact, he was actually a pretty stark underdog. He had ridiculous +5000 odds to win the Masters prior to the start, placing him tied for dead last in terms of odds to go all the way. For perspective, the current seventh seed in the NBA’s Western Conference, the Dallas Mavericks, have +4500 odds to win the NBA Championship. The Arizona Cardinals, who went 8-8 last season, have +5000 odds to win Super Bowl 56. The Chicago Cubs, who are (as of writing this) dead last in the National League Central Division, have +5000 odds to win the World Series.

Regardless of what Las Vegas said the odds were, Matsuyama came out on top, cementing himself as a lifelong icon to the Japanese youth. “It’s thrilling to think that there are a lot of youngsters in Japan watching today. Hopefully in five, 10 years, when they get a little older, hopefully some of them will be competing on the world stage,” Matsuyama said in his press conference following his victory, “…I’m happy for them because hopefully they will be able to follow in my footsteps.” 

One of the more touching moments from the event was the reaction of the Japanese commentators. Veteran announcers were so overcome with bliss that they repeated the word, “sumimasen” which roughly translates to “I’m sorry” as they choked on their words in the final seconds before Matsuyama officially won. 

The impact of Matsuyama’s victory is felt beyond Japan. Tiger Woods, largely considered one of the best golfers in history; tied for the most PGA Tour wins in history (82), tweeted following the conclusion of the 2021 Masters, “Making Japan proud Hideki. Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment for you and your country. This historical @TheMasters win will impact the entire golf world.”

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