Before this weekend, Hideki Matsuyama was already a big deal in Japan, already a legend, the best male golfer the nation, which is golf-obsessed, has ever produced. Last week Tsubasa Kajitani won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur. And yesterday Hideki became the first Japanese man to ever win a Masters title.
Obviously he was the best player over the course of four days…but imagine that pressure? It’s pressure for everyone, of course, although in Hideki’s case, to have been carrying the hopes of an entire country, literally, most of us would have sh-t ourselves, right?
Here’s how Isao Aoki, whose second place finish to Jack Nicklaus at the 1980 US Open was previously the best result by a male Japanese golfer at a major, described what Hideki’s Masters victory means:
"This win, which was the first for a Japanese as well as an Asian, was a moment we were all waiting for, not just myself but all the Japanese golf fans and those involved in the golf world.''
Hideki isn’t the type to be outwardly emotive which is why he kept his feelings pretty contained yesterday – and his comments spare. When I was watching him I thought about how celebration and happiness look different on different people. And there’s no one way to be a champion. If you want some sense of what his experience was, and has been, Wright Thompson wrote a piece about “the burden of being Hideki Matsuyama” for ESPN last night that will give you an idea of where he came from, what he’s been through. And, looking ahead, a new generation of Japanese golfers inspired by what they saw this weekend.
Yours in gossip,