“I hope I can follow in her shoes and make Japan proud.” Tsubasa Kajitani won the 2021 Augusta National Women’s Amateur Championship last weekend, and today, Hideki Matsuyama has a chance to make it a quick-fire Japanese double by winning the Masters. History beckons.
We should probably qualify that statement, though: Hideki Matsuyama has one hell of a chance of winning the Masters. The 29-year-old from the island of Shikoku goes into the final day with a four-shot lead over his nearest rivals, having returned from yesterday afternoon’s weather delay to take a mere 25 shots over his final seven-and-a-half holes, a run that included a three-putt par at the 13th! It’s fair to say he hit quite the vein of form, located, he says, while kicking back during the break and fiddling with his phone.
Four-shot 54-hole leads have been shipped before, of course. Ken Venturi in 1956, for instance, or Rory McIlroy in 2011. Greg Norman managed to toss away a six-stroke advantage in 1996, for goodness sake. So can any of the chasing pack channel their inner Jack Burke, their dormant Charl Schwartzel, their lurking Nick Faldo? There’s enough quality in the chasing pack should Matsuyama stumble, and things can turn absurdly quickly at Augusta National, history has told us that much. Also, the Tournament doesn’t technically begin until the last group reaches the back nine later this afternoon, so there’s that too.
However, if Matsuyama holds his nerve, and dials in his irons anything like yesterday afternoon, this will quickly become a cakewalk. One way or another, we’re about to witness something special. A day of high drama, or the coronation of a special player who has long been a major champion in waiting, having come so close so often. Good luck, everyone. It’s on!
Here’s how the leaders stand after 54 holes …
-7: Schauffele, Leishman, Rose, Zalatoris
-2: MacIntyre, Kim, Wiesberger
… and here’s when everyone’s teeing off. Add five hours for hot BST fun!
10:00 Jim Herman (USA), Adam Scott (Aus)
10:10 Jose Maria Olazabal (Spa), Brendon Todd (USA)
10:20 Christiaan Bezuidenhout (Rsa), Gary Woodland (USA)
10:30 Paul Casey (Eng), Billy Horschel (USA)
10:40 Abraham Ancer (Mex), Michael Thompson (USA)
10:50 Tyrrell Hatton (Eng), Ian Poulter (Eng)
11:00 Bryson DeChambeau (USA), Harris English (USA)
11:10 Jason Kokrak (USA), Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa)
11:20 Cameron Champ (USA), Sebastian Munoz (Col)
11:40 Matt Jones (Aus), Collin Morikawa (USA)
11:50 Matthew Fitzpatrick (Eng), Tommy Fleetwood (Eng)
12:00 Martin Laird (Sco), Bubba Watson (USA)
12:10 Charl Schwartzel (Rsa), Matt Wallace (Eng)
12:20 Mackenzie Hughes (Can), Shane Lowry (Irl)
12:30 Jon Rahm (Spa), Scottie Scheffler (USA)
12:40 Joaquin Niemann (Chi), Webb Simpson (USA)
12:50 Phil Mickelson (USA), Francesco Molinari (Ita)
13:00 Cameron Smith (Aus), Justin Thomas (USA)
13:20 Viktor Hovland (Nor), Ryan Palmer (USA)
13:30 Stewart Cink (USA), Henrik Stenson (Swe)
13:40 Kevin Na (USA), Patrick Reed (USA)
13:50 Si Woo Kim (Kor), Bernd Wiesberger (Aut)
14:00 Tony Finau (USA), Robert MacIntyre (Sco)
14:10 Brian Harman (USA), Jordan Spieth (USA)
14:20 Corey Conners (Can), Will Zalatoris (USA)
14:30 Marc Leishman (Aus), Justin Rose (Eng)
14:40 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Xander Schauffele (USA)