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The Masters

The Masters The Masters

AUGUSTA – The Masters didn’t start on the back nine Sunday as has so often been the case in past years, but had Xander Schauffele placed his tee shot at No 16 on the green and two putted for par, that could have brought about a more dramatic finish. As it turned out, a par at the sixteenth would have won the tournament for him.

However, it was Hideki Matsuyama’s day. Except for a lapse with his decision making at No. 15 when he hit his second shot over the green into the water, he mastered the Augusta National Golf Club’s championship layout as well as it could have been managed this particular year. Yet, you have to ask, how often does the leader in the fourth round of this tournament score a 73 and win a Green Jacket—especially when the weather is as favorable as it was this week?

If you are not threatened when you glance at the leader board, then you gain a consequential advantage. There are no Tiger’s on today’s PGA Tour. Phil is still active, but the calendar has taken away his contending status. It appears that Jordan Spieth is on track to regain his status as a consistent challenger. Masters rookie Will Zalatoris comported himself extraordinarily well, but we are not sure about him just yet. With a little more seasoning, his prospectus may improve dramatically.

Players like Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Tom Watson, for example, knew how to avoid train wrecks like Schauffele’s triple bogey at No 16. They might not always win the golf tournament, but they wouldn’t lose it with one swing. Knowing the golf course and knowing your swing are paramount in golf course management. That is why Nicklaus has six green jackets and Woods has five. They found a way to avoid disaster at the twelfth and sixteenth holes. In Tokyo today, nobody cares about any that might have been faux pas. Matsuyama will get godlike treatment when he returns home. He had to feel at home in the environs of the Augusta National among the abundant azaleas which he sees in Japan in the spring. Every day when he walked out of the clubhouse on the way to the first tee, he passed by a blooming wisteria vine, something that is commonplace back home. It would be interesting to know how he takes to the food options in Augusta, which has four Japanese steak houses. An American can find Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in Japan but is it the same? You can be sure that whatever he likes or dislikes about America will become common knowledge before long. Win the Masters, no matter your heritage, and the questions about your personal life move front and center. One of the most prevalent pre-tournament topics a year from now will be what Matsuyama will put on the menu for the champions dinner next April. He has the money to import something exotic if he likes, as estimates regarding his endorsement opportunity are as high as a billion dollars. One of his sponsor connections is with Lexus. Instead of getting a new car for his victory Sunday, he could get a fleet if he asked for such. Matsuyama is certainly not an unlikely winner of the Masters. He has a very compact swing which has been good enough for him to claim victory six times on the PGA tour. He has also won eight times on the Asian Golf Tour. Before he turned professional, he won the Asian Amateur in 2010 which got him an invitation to the 2011 Masters which resulted in his claiming the low amateur medal. He has high finishes in other majors: He tied for second at the 2017 U. S. Open at Erin Hills; tied for fourth at the 2016 PGA championship at Baltusrol and finished in a tie for sixth at the 2013 British Open at Muirfield. He knows his way around the iconic venues of the professional tour.

One of those smiling with regard to Matsuyama’s winning a Green Jacket has to be former chairman Billy Payne. When he became chairman at Augusta, Payne underscored the objective to grow the game and a focal point of the Augusta National was Asia.

That led to Matsuyama getting an invitation to play in the Masters. He won the silver medal as the low amateur in his first appearance. From that performance, there was an indication that he was a special talent. After Sunday, we will likely be seeing his name on the marquee of major championships again. Perhaps, soon.

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