How Hideki Matsuyama became Japan’s new national hero

With a dramatic victory in one stroke, Matsuyama became the first Japanese man to win the golf major. A Japanese newspaper even printed a 72-hole image detailing each golfer’s shot as Japan’s Matsuyama made it.

But it’s not just Matsuyama’s golf prowess that has made him popular in Japan.

Matsuyama said he hopes Augusta’s success will help inspire the next generation of Japanese golfers.

Matsuyama left the 18th green box after winning the Masters.

“It’s emotional to think that there are so many young people in Japan watching today. Hopefully in 5, 10 years, when they’re a little older, hopefully some of them will be competing on world stage,” Matsuyama said in his press conference after his Masters win.

“But I still have a lot of years to go, so they’ll still have to compete with me. But I’m happy for them because hopefully they’ll be able to follow in my footsteps.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, since the victory in Georgia, the Japanese golfer has been “flooded” with marketing requests and media opportunities, according to Bob Turner, Matsuyama’s agent.

Make changes

After nearly four years without a win, the victory on golf’s biggest course is a return to perfect form for Matsuyama.

His brilliant performance on day three of the Masters stole the show as he raced for the lead, while on the final day, Matsuyama thwarted Xander Schauffele’s late allegation to claim the trophy. That famous blue coat.

Andy Yamanaka, who has known Matsuyama since he was a teenager, says he has seen a change in golfers’ demeanor at Augusta, which he thinks could make the difference between win and lose.

“This time at the Masters we saw more smiles on the golf course, which is very unusual for [him]”, Yamanaka told CNN’s Selina Wang.

“When he was playing on the golf course he didn’t smile much, but this time we saw some smiles, and he looked very relaxed.”

Matsuyama talks to his athlete Shota Hayafuji on the second tee in the final round of the Masters.

And when he hit the winning putt, there were no lavish celebrations. Matsuyama almost casually took off his hat, shook Schauffele’s hand, and hugged his caddie.

That’s when emotions ran high, before the golfer ran off the 18th green to claim the much coveted Green Jacket.

Having turned pro eight years ago, Matsuyama’s hard work and dedication on the track are qualities that have earned him a good position, helping him to win 13 professional victories and come second in the table. world ranking 2017.

Yamanaka believes it wasn’t until recently when he started adding muscle to his frame – thus adding more distance to his game – that gave him another dimension.

“He is a very thin person,” explained Yamanaka. “So when he joined our national team, we had a training program. And so he spent a lot of time building up his muscles by doing exercises. some exercises.

“Even after he turned pro… he knew that to be a better player as a pro golfer he needed to be built bigger. And so , as well as hitting a lot of golf balls on the course, I think he spent a lot of time practicing, to build more muscle for him.”

Matsuyama plays a shot from a bunker on the second hole in the final round of the Masters.

Impact back home

Matsuyama is no stranger to Masters and even Augusta National.

Ten years ago, Matsuyama won the low-level amateur title at the tournament and the 19-year-old sat next to winner Charl Schwartzel in the Butler Cabin during the Blue Jacket ceremony.

At the time, however, Matsuyama’s mind was distracted by events in his hometown – the tournament took place about a month after the devastating 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that hit Japan.

Matsuyama himself was competing in Australia at the time of the earthquake, but when he returned to Tohoku Fukushi University, he found his residence destroyed.

Matsuyama with the low-level amateur trophy after the final round of the 2011 Masters.

“Literally thousands of lives have been lost and there are still a lot of people missing,” Matsuyama told a news conference after the 2011 Masters. “The infrastructure is still in the process of being restored and a lot of people are still missing,” Matsuyama said. forced to live in emergency shelters.

“I’m from the Tohoku region, and knowing such a difficult situation at home, I’m not sure if I should compete at the Masters even now. However, I decided to compete anyway.”

He emphasized his desire to do some volunteer work upon his return, and through his attention to earthquake relief and the site during the PGA Tour, Matsuyama helped illuminate issues back home. and became a more prominent figure to his compatriots.

Now Yamanaka is hoping Matsuyama’s new big winning record can help expand golf’s appeal in Japan.

“We have 2,200 golf courses; we are known as the second largest golfing country in the world. Next is the US, then the US. We have about 7.5 million golfers. Golf is one great sport that any generation can enjoy and compete against each other So I think his victory has inspired not only golfers but also young people who don’t play golf, come to golf, come to the game.

Yasuhiko Abe, who coached golfer Hideki Matsuyama during his years at Tohoku Fukushi University, holds special editions of newspapers about Matsuyama's Masters victory.

“The people of today’s younger generation, they have too many options, and every sport has to compete with other sports for the younger generation to participate in that sport, and golf is also in a state of disrepair. same. So we need more and more young people to join our game.”

Mark Broadie, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of ‘Every Shot Counts’ – a book that teaches how to use golf statistics and analysis to transform their game, cites the influence of the game. Se Ri Pak’s 1998 US Open win on Korean golf as a possible blueprint for the impact of Matsuyama’s Masters win in Japan.

“[Se Ri Pak’s 1998 US Women’s Open] The win has led to a tremendous growth in golf in South Korea, where there are now 4 of the top 10 and 39 of the top 100 players in the Rolex World Rankings,” Broadie told CNN via email.

“My guess is that Hideki will become an icon and role model in Japan and will inspire a younger generation of Japanese players (and possibly beyond Japan).”

When Matsuyama won the Masters, the commentators of the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) were more than happy.

TBS announcer Wataru Ogasawara said: “Matsuyama has won the Masters!” before shedding tears and saying, “Finally, finally, Japanese has become the top of the world!”

Commentator Tsuneyuki Nakajima burst into tears and was speechless after the win.

And with calls for Matsuyama to light the Olympic Cauldron before the Summer Olympics are delayed, the golfer is gearing up for a busy year with three more majors to compete in as well as the Tokyo 2020 golf tournament. .

That event will be held at Kasumigaseki Country Club, where Matsuyama won 2010 Asian Amateur Championship

“Matsuyama knows golf well and he will obviously represent Japan at the Olympics,” Yamanaka said. So he has a bigger chance, a bigger advantage, and hopefully that he or another Japanese player has a gold medal… will be another great story about golf in Japan. “ | How Hideki Matsuyama became Japan’s new national hero


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