Japan on Sunday sucked in its breath as Hideki Matsuyama almost blew his chance to win the Masters, but the golfer’s one-shot victory at Augusta National sparked a joyous reaction back home as the country celebrated another sporting triumph in testing times.
Matsuyama, 29, became the first man from Japan to win one of golf’s major titles, a feat that drew praise from government and Olympics officials with the Tokyo Games just three months away.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato expressed “congratulations and respect from the heart” for Matsuyama’s “historic” win, which came as ray of hope during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is another bright piece of news of a Japanese athlete’s outstanding performance on the global stage under tough circumstances like training,” Kato told a regular news conference.
Kato pointed to tennis player Naomi Osaka’s win at the Australian Open and Shohei Ohtani’s outstanding performance both as a hitter and a batter this week in MLB as further evidence of Japan’s sporting success.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called Matsuyama’s win “wonderful” and a source of pride and courage for the Japanese people during the difficulties posed by the pandemic.
Matsuyama started the final round with a four-shot lead and looking a strong bet to join Hinako Shibuno and Chako Higuchi as Japanese major champions. Shibuno won the Women’s British Open in 2019 and Higuchi won the 1977 Women’s PGA Championship.
However, Matsuyama’s march to win the coveted Green Jacket hit a speed bump on the par five 15th, where his approach shot went in the water behind the green.
He could only make bogey while playing partner Xander Schauffele birdied the hole, turning Matsuyama’s comfortable four-shot cushion into a slender two-shot lead.
Schauffele’s triple-bogey at the next hole gave Matsuyama some breathing space and while he dropped two more strokes over the closing three holes it was enough for a one-shot win over Masters debutant Will Zalatoris.
Matsuyama’s Masters victory has prompted calls for him to be given the honor of lighting the Olympic Games cauldron at the opening ceremony in July.
“It would be quite an honor,” he said in a PGA Tour statement. “But I’m not sure about my schedule. If the schedules worked out and I am in Japan when that happens and they ask me, what an honor that would be.”
“Matsuyama Masters” trended on Twitter and golf-related shares rose on the Tokyo stock market after his victory.
“Matsuyama opens the door of history,” the national daily Asahi Shimbun wrote.
TV networks ran breaking news flashes announcing the victory and several newspapers published special editions online, usually reserved for major stories.
As Tokyo’s stock market opened, shares in Value Golf, which provides services linked to the sport, jumped 14 percent, while golf club maker Graphite Design rose 16 percent.
Fans flooded to congratulate the country’s new sporting hero as social media lit up.
“I can’t see through my tears,” one fan wrote on Twitter.
Additional reporting by AFP
The all-English Champions League final might be played in England after Turkey was added to its “red list” of countries where all but essential travel is banned due to COVID-19 outbreaks. Chelsea and Manchester City are due to meet on May 29 in Istanbul and UEFA was hoping to allow about 10,000 fans into the biggest club game of the European soccer season. However, the British government on Friday warned supporters not to travel to Turkey after imposing the new travel restrictions and said that the English Football Association was in talks with Champions League organizer UEFA about staging the game in
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga yesterday said that he has never “put the Olympics first,” the same day an opinion poll showed that nearly 60 percent of people in Japan want the Olympics canceled less than three months before they begin. Japan has extended a state of emergency in Tokyo until the end of the month and is struggling to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases, raising further questions about whether the Games should go on. Its vaccination rate is the lowest among wealthy nations. International Olympic officials, Tokyo planners and Suga have insisted that the Games would go on in “a
Chinese Taipei Football Association (CTFA) secretary-general Fang Ching-jen yesterday touted the success of the Taiwan Business Bank Taiwan Futsal League after Chiayi Tienching on Sunday displayed their all-conquering form and collected the championship trophy with a 5-2 win over YTFC at the Pingtung County Stadium. Since January, when the season began, Chiayi Tienching scored a perfect 10 wins off 10 games to collect 30 points. Taichung Traveler were second, finishing on 22 points with seven wins, two losses and one draw, while CTFA U20 were third on 17 points with five wins, three losses and two draws. In the season’s final round on
Japanese nurse Arisa Tsubata has trained around her work shifts for more than a year to prepare for a final Olympic boxing qualifier in the hope of making it to the Tokyo Games this summer. That dream was shattered after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) canceled the boxing qualifier to take place next month and said it would allocate spots to athletes based on their world rankings. The change in criteria has effectively shut the door on many Olympic hopefuls such as Tsubata, whose rankings are not good enough to earn them an automatic qualification for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Other qualifying