Hideki Matsuyama has cemeted himself as one of the elites in golf.
Via Giphy

Pressure Makes Masters: The Story of Hideki Matsuyama

Matt Trombley, Nathan Baugh

Hideki Matsuyama overcame the most pressure any golfer has ever faced to win his first Masters. But where’d the pressure come from? His home country of Japan, where golf symbolizes the country’s economic and political resurgence post World War 2.

As Japan’s post-war economy boomed, golf’s popularity skyrocketed:

  • Membership prices grew 500% from 1982-1989
  • 195 courses in 1960 turned into 2,400 in 2009 and 3,170 now

But the golf-loving country never had a superstar of its own...

That is, until Hideki Matsuyama burst onto the scene.

  • Wins the inaugural Asia-Pacific Amateur in 2010
  • Qualifies for the 2011 Masters
  • Finishes 27th, the low amateur score

In 20-year-old Matsuyama, Japan had found its first golf superstar.

In the media world, negativity sells. The Japanese press hounded the shy and private Matsuyama, writing about:

  • The weight he gained after moving to the US
  • His struggle to win the big one

It was so bad, Hideki even kept his marriage and child secret from the Japanese press.

With a chance to win the 2017 PGA Championship, Hideki bogeyed 5 of the tourney’s last 9 holes. After the round, he cried on Japanese television. Hideki put his country’s burden upon himself and, at that time, it was too much.

Fast forward to the 2021 Masters. Matsuyama shoots an impeccable 65 on Saturday, taking a 4 shot lead. But, on Sunday’s back 9, he falters. A fan reminds him, “For Japan, baby!”

Like Hideki needed reminding.

It’s shades of the PGA as Xander Schauffele cuts the lead to 2 with 3 holes to play...

But legend Xander makes one mistake. Hideki takes advantage, and the Masters is his! He becomes the:

  • First Japanese player to win a major
  • First Asian born player to win the Masters

Hideki Matsuyama cemented himself as one of golf’s most influential players - just ask the goat.

I hope Hideki savors his well-deserved time in the sun, wins a few more majors, and then enjoys his life in private as he seems to prefer.

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