On Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club, Hideki Matsuyama (-11) will enter the final round of The Masters Tournament with a commanding four-stroke advantage over a foursome which includes Xander Schauffele (-7) – his third- and final-round playing partner, and Justin Rose (-7), who led after the opening two rounds.
Will Zalatoris and Marc Leishman were the others at 7 under par.
Five off the pace was Corey Conners (-6), while Jordan Spieth (-5) was six back.
In the history of the Masters, no player has won a green jacket by coming back from more than six shots in the final round, so those seven names are one of your likely winners – with Matsuyama the prohibitive (and overwhelming) favorite.
Of the names atop the leaderboard, Spieth will be the clear rooting favorite among American golf fans, but a win by Matsuyama would be the most historic: as he’d become the first Japanese player to win a major golf championship, and the first Asian native to win the Masters.
Asked if there was any added pressure to have an entire nation living on his every shot, Matsuyama said, “I’m not sure how to answer the question. All I can do is prepare well, try my best, and do the best that I can tomorrow.”
With that, here are the storylines, and things to know, if Matsuyama starts pulling away and ends up in the winner’s circle.
- “Japan’s golden golf child” won the Silver Cup as the low amateur at the 2011 Masters, and has lived up to his all-world amateur billing…
- Started his career on absolute fire with four wins in his 2013 Japan Golf Tour rookie campaign…
- Then, at just 22-years old, during his 2014 PGA Tour rookie season, won Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament – one of the top non-major events in golf, against a field comprised of eight of the then world’s top-10 ranked players: Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar, Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson, and Justin Rose…
- Won seven more times worldwide in 2016 and 2017, including two WGC titles (China and Firestone), back-to-back Phoenix Opens, and Tiger Woods’ ultra-exclusive Hero World Challenge to move to No. 2 in the world rankings…
- Despite being mired in a three-year long winless drought, Matsuyama has maintained a top-25 world ranking average…
- Since his 2013 rookie season, has never ranked worse than No. 32 in the world (only Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson can make similar claims)…
- Could become the seventh low amateur winner to go on and claim a green jacket as a professional.
Hideki Matsuyama’s 2021 Masters’ Stats (thru 54 Holes)
Rounds: 69-71-65 (-11)
Driving: 287.2 (47th)
Fairways: 61.9%, 26/42 (T40)
Greens: 72.2%, 39/54 (T5)
Putts/GIR: 2.200 (3rd)
1. Hideki Matsuyama (-120)
2. Xander Schauffele (+500)
3. Will Zalatoris (+900)
4. Justin Rose (+900)
5. Marc Leishman (+1100)
6. Jordan Spieth (+1600)
7. Corey Conners (+2200)
With a win on Sunday at The Masters, Hideki Matsuyama…
- Would become Japan’s first major golf champion.
- Would be the first Asian native to win the Masters.
- Would join Y.E. Yang (2009 PGA) as the only Asian born players to win majors.
- Would join Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa as the only under-30 golfers holding a Major and a World Golf Championship title.
- Already considered Japan’s co-greatest golfer of all time, alongside Masashi ‘Jumbo’ Ozaki, a victory would move him to the undisputed No. 1 position in the golf-crazed nation.
- Would move inside the world top 15 for the first time since June, 2018.
- Would pass K.J. Choi as the top Asian money winner in PGA Tour history with $33.3 million, good for 32nd place (bumping the Korean Choi to No. 33).
- Would move to No.3 on the PGA Tour’s 2021 money list.
- Would join Cary Middlecoff, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, and Sergio Garcia as low amateur winners who went on to claim green jackets as tour professionals.