'It Was Something Very Special' – Matsuyama On Caddie’s Augusta National Bow

The Japanese star reflects on one of golf’s most enduring images of 2021

Shota Hayafuji and Hideki Matsuyama at the 2021 Masters
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Last year’s Masters was memorable for a number of reasons, including the moment Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese player to win the tournament. However, one of the tournament’s most enduring images belonged to his caddie, Shota Hayafuji.

As is customary for the winning caddie, Hayafuji removed the flag from the18th after Matsuyama’s winning putt. He then placed it back in the hole, faced the course, removed his hat and bowed. The image quickly spread across social media, ensuring its place in Masters immortality. In the aftermath, Hayafuji explained his reaction in an email interview with The Caddie Network, saying: “My heart was full of gratitude, and it was the natural thing for me to bow and show respect to The Masters.”

Now, as Matsuyama prepares to defend his title at Augusta National in two weeks, the 30-year-old has spoken about the moment that quickly imprinted itself in the memories of those watching. He said: “I didn’t see it in person, but I did see it on TV, and I thought it was something very special. I’m glad that Shota did it. It’s a sign of respect, not only to the Masters tournament but Augusta National. It was something that was good. I never really thought it would receive the attention that it has generated.”

With The Masters rapidly approaching, Matsuyama is striving to return to fitness to defend his title. The 30-year-old hasn’t played since the recurrence of a back injury at the Arnold Palmer Championship, but his recovery is going well: “My recovery is moving forward. Each day it gets better. Probably at 80 percent right now. Planning to practice hard this week and I’m intending to play in the Valero Texas Open as long as the pain keeps subsiding.”

Matsuyama also had a few words for what The Masters means to him. He said: “Going to the Masters is something very special for me and something I’ve really been looking forward to, so I’m going to do my very best to be as prepared as I can to defend my title there.”

Matsuyama will be hoping to recreate the form that won him his first Major to date when he tees it up at Augusta National in two weeks. Whatever happens, though, it is hard to imagine anything proving more poignant and powerful than that image of a year ago.

Mike Hall
Mike Hall

Mike has 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on sports such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the sport’s most newsworthy stories. Originally from East Yorkshire, Mike now resides in Canada, where the nearest course is less than a mile from his home. It’s there where he remains confident that, one of these days, he’ll play the 17th without finding the water. Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.