Hideki Matsuyama is back in Augusta, Georgia, taking a second chance to receive the ceremonial green jacket.
Matsuyama, 30, and a former teenage prodigy, set records last year by winning the Masters in one shot, becoming the tournament’s first Asian-born champion and the first Japanese to win a major golf championship.
Notably missing from last year’s tournament was Tiger Woods, who did not compete due to a serious leg injury he suffered in a car accident in February. His absence opened the door for a new era of young golfers to show off their skills on the sport’s biggest stage.
Still, Matsuyama was positioned as anything but the potential champion.
Entering the 2021 Masters, Matsuyama was ranked 25th in the world and hadn’t won a tournament since 2017. Still, a sparkling 65 in the third round gave Matsuyama a head start for his victory lap: he entered in the final round with a four-stroke advantage and shot a 73 over par to end the tournament at 10 under par, just one stroke ahead of San Francisco’s 25-year-old Masters rookie Will Zalatoris. Zalatoris’ second-place finish helped raise his profile within the golfing community.
Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth, also of the United States, tied for third at seven under par.
Matsuyama, who learned to golf with his father, has long been revered in Japan and considered the country’s best chance to break through at golf’s biggest tournament. Two Japanese, Hisako Higuchi and Hinako Shibuno, were great champions.
Matsuyama isn’t a favorite going into this year’s tournament – Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas have the shortest odds at around 12-1 – but the matches have only just begun.