There ya have it. Hideki came into Sunday with a commanding 4-shot lead and got the job done. Things looked a weeeee bit shaky at a few moments today including pushing his opening tee shot way right and Xander making a run on the Second Nine. But only in the first few holes was anyone within a stroke of Hideki and it really felt like it was going to take a monumental collapse for him to lose it, especially after he opened a 6 shot lead around the 11th hole.
I don't know that anybody really saw this coming. Not this week at least. Hideki Matsuyama has been a really good player for a lot of years - it felt inevitable that he would break through and become Japan's first major winner at some point. But he hadn't been playing his best golf in recent years. It had been nearly 4 years since his last win and he hadn't had a Top 10 on Tour since last November at the Houston Open - before last year's Masters. It wasn't as though his game was cratering like Spieth's had and Rickie's still is, but he had fallen to 25th in the world... a decent descent from 2nd in the world after the 2017 US Open. He's always had the game and he's always played boldly, it just felt like we would have seen some signs of life foreshadowing his big breakthrough.
This is a massive and monumental win for Japan. The CBS broadcast made sure we knew it. Clips of Japanese broadcast galore and the phrase "weight of a nation" used ad nauseum. It's a sport that's grown immensely on the other side of the world and having a player prove his mettle on the world's biggest stage is massive for them. And it's massive for Augusta National too. I interviewed at Augusta for a job there last January and they're putting a TON of resources behind the scenes into international amateur golf on the other side of the globe with the Masters Tournament Foundation. They put on the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship themselves every year and a bunch of other tournaments like it. Hideki is going to be the face of all those efforts and now that face will be donning a green jacket.
Hideki played tough as nails down the stretch and closed it out with phenomenal drives on 17 and 18 that showed that the moment was by no means too big for him. I thought it was kind of bananas how he kind of rushed his final tap-in but whatever man. Don't make a mountain out of a mole hill.
Awesome job, awesome Tournament, and congrats to Japan and Hideki Matsuyama. Bravo.