GM Editor-at-large Bill Elliott looks back on Hideki Matsuyama's maiden Major triumph at The Masters
“We Know Matsuyama Can Be Excellent But We Know Little Else”
Golf in Japan is just about as exclusive as the club that welcomed Hideki Matsuyama into its membership last night.
It’s certainly as expensive, a game for millionaires. Make that multi-millionaires.
Yet a big slice of Japan’s sporting population either follow the game avidly or play golf in one of the thousands of hi-tech driving, pitching, all-singing and dancing ranges that dot the urban areas of this still quite mysterious country.
One way or another golf is big money in Matsuyama’s land and its just become bigger.
People who don’t ‘get’ golf, get the Masters, suck it up, stroke it, admire it.
Some actually believe it has a long and proud history rather than an outstanding PR and marketing campaign.
But, hey-ho, while some us might wince wearily at some of the Augusta club’s overarching and self congratulatory traditions, there is no doubt this rumble in Georgia sells the game to many who otherwise would be playing video games on their phones.
Which is what Hideki did when play was halted for an hour while a storm blew through on Saturday, sitting in his car quietly and hammering the keys on his phone.
No doubt he is as good at this pastime as he is at his job, bringing the same thoughtful, quick and decisive flow to the action as he does to the golf course.
Despite several years now spent touring the USA he speaks little of the language although I suspect it is more than he lets on, his preference for a quiet life away from the course as obvious as his determination when on it.
Before he began yesterday’s climactic round I wondered aloud if he would bring a Zen-like quality to the biggest 18 holes of his life. He did.
While an impressive young guy, Will Zalatoris, and the more experienced Xander Schauffele led the pursuing posse of wannabes around the old technicolour dreamscape, Hideki just kept on keeping on.
He had a couple of big slices of luck on the back nine when his decision-making fluttered and he could have thrown his chances into an azalea bush but he got away with it.
Throughout these trials he remained calm.
He even remained in the zone when Schauffele inexplicably smacked his ball into the 16th hole pond having just pulled two shots back from the leader.
Matsuyama just looked at the ripple and selected the club guaranteed to get him on dry land and, actually, a Green Jacket.
So he leaves as he arrived.
We know he is good and can be excellent but we know little else.
He wouldn’t have it any other way and has little to say on the matter.
Anyway, his mind is already focusing on the next big target. Olympic Gold anyone?
PS: Baron DeShampoo still isn’t listening to what Augusta is telling him, is he? The future of golf? Don’t get me started.