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Matsuyama on brink of Masters glory after glorious 65

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  Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama put himself on the threshold of Masters Tournament history after a stunning 7-under 65 in the third round fired him into a four-shot lead at Augusta National on Saturday.

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No Asian golfer has slipped on the famous green jacket awarded annually to the Masters champion and the 29-year-old gave himself the best opportunity following a sublime inward 30 featuring four birdies and an eagle. He stands at 11-under 205.

 Four players – Xander Schauffele (68), Marc Leishman (70), Justin Rose (72) and Will Zalatoris (71) – share second place on 209, with Corey Conners (68) lying a further shot back. After starting the day three off the pace, Korea’s Si Woo Kim carded a 74 to drop to a share of 10th on 2-under.

 Matsuyama came out firing on all cylinders following a one hour 15 minute weather suspension, taking advantage of softer conditions. He rolled in a 19-footer for birdie on 11 following a great recovery shot, and snared further birdies on 12, 16 and 17, and an eagle on the par-5 15th after striking a beautiful five iron approach to five feet. He made a vital par save at the last, getting up and down from the back of the green to post the tournament’s first bogey-free round and his career low score at Augusta National.

 “Before the horn blew, I probably hit the worst shot I've hit this week (on 11), but after the restart, I hit practically every shot exactly how I wanted to. I just figured, I can't hit anything worse than that. And so maybe it relieved some pressure,” said Matsuyama, who played games on his cell phone in the car during the weather delay.

 Ten years ago, he was in Butler Cabin as a 19-year-old amateur receiving the Silver Cup for Low Amateur Honours at the 2011 Masters and watched up close South African Charles Schwartzel slipping on the green jacket. He hopes it will be his turn on Sunday, which comes a week after 17-year-old compatriot, Tsubasa Kajitani won the Augusta National Women's Amateur.

 Matsuyama holds two top-10s and three other top-20s at the Masters and has missed only one cut in nine appearances. His 65 was his 10th straight round of par or better at Augusta National and when asked what it would it mean for Japan if he won Sunday, he replied:  “I'm not sure how to answer the question. All I can do is prepare well, try my best, and do the best that I can tomorrow. I love playing here, and hopefully I can make it 11 (par or better) tomorrow.”

 He will attempt to win his sixth PGA TOUR title and first since August 2017. In the past 10 years, he has amassed six top-10s in the majors, with a T2 at the 2017 U.S. Open being his best. At the Masters, Matsuyama’s best result is fifth place in 2015, one rung below compatriots Shingo Katayama (4th/2009) and Toshi Izawa (T4/2001). Korea’s Sungjae Im’s tied second here last November is the best finish by an Asian golfer.

 Growing up in Japan, Matsuyama vividly recalls some of Tiger Woods’ early wins at the Masters, including the famous chip-in birdie on the 16th hole in 2005 which inspired him to excel in the sport.  “I have a lot of great memories watching the Masters as a young boy. I was always dreaming someday I could play here,” said Matsuyama, who won the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship twice to earn Masters invites in 2011 and 2012.

 Two Japanese women golfers have won majors – Hisako Higuchi and Hinako Shibuno – and Matsuyama will be hoping he will be making new memories and rewriting golf history along the way on Sunday.

 He will play alongside Schauffele, who is also chasing his first major win, again on Sunday. The winner of the Masters has come out of the final pairing 25 out of the last 30 years. “This will be a new experience for me, being a leader going into the final round in a major. I guess all I can do is just relax as I can tonight, prepare well and just do my best tomorrow,” he said.

 Third-Round Notes – Saturday, April 10, 2021

 Weather: Cloudy, with light showers late in the afternoon. High of 79. Wind SSE 10-15 mph, gusting to 25 mph. Play was suspended at 3:58 p.m. due to a dangerous weather situation. Play resumed at 5:15 p.m. for a delay of 77 minutes.

 Third-Round Leaderboard

Hideki Matsuyama            69-71-65—205 (-11)

Xander Schauffele              72-69-68—209 (-7)

Marc Leishman                  72-67-70—209 (-7)

Justin Rose                         65-72-72—209 (-7)

Will Zalatoris                      70-68-71—209 (-7)

Corey Conners                   73-69-68—210 (-6)

 Things to Know

  • Hideki Matsuyama seeks to become the first male major championship winner from Japan
  • Just two major championship winners (Justin Rose, Jordan Spieth) among the top 12 players on the leaderboard
  • Matsuyama’s 65 is his best score at the Masters and represents the only bogey-free round of the week
  • Matsuyama now has 10 straight par-or-better scores at the Masters
  • The winner of the Masters has come out of the final pairing 25 out of the last 30 years; following a 4-under 68, Xander Schauffele joins Matsuyama in Sunday’s final pairing
  • Jordan Spieth sits inside the top 10 through three rounds of the Masters for the sixth time in eight appearances
  • The last Masters champion to win from outside the top five was Nick Faldo in 1989 (T9)
  • First- and second-round leader Justin Rose trails by four after an even-par 72
  • Will Zalatoris trails by four in his attempt to become the first player to win in Masters debut since 1979
  • Marc Leishman is four behind in attempt to join Adam Scott as Aussie winners of the Masters
  • Corey Conners hopes to become the first player to record an ace and win the Masters in the same week

 Third-Round Lead Notes

47          Third-round leaders/co-leaders to win the Masters Tournament

(most recent: Dustin Johnson/2020)

11          Third-round leaders/co-leaders to win in 2020-21

(most recent: Jordan Spieth/Valero Texas Open)

 Final pairing (entering the week)

Category

Hideki Matsuyama

Xander Schauffele

Age

29 (February 25, 1992)

27 (October 25, 1993)

FedExCup

33

5

OWGR

25

6

Starts at the Masters

9

3

Wins at the Masters

0

0

Top-10s at the Masters

2

1

Career PGA TOUR starts

186

107

Career PGA TOUR wins

5

4

Career PGA TOUR top-10s

47

29

PGA TOUR starts in 2020-21

16

11

PGA TOUR wins in 2020-21

0

0

PGA TOUR top-10s in 2020-21

1

5

 

Hideki Matsuyama (1st/-11)

  • Seeking to become the first male major championship winner from Japan
  • A victory Sunday would come in his 187th start on the PGA TOUR at the age of 29 years, 1 month, 17 days
  • Third-round 65 is the only bogey-free round of the week and his 10th straight par-or-better score at the Masters
  • 65 is his best score in 37 rounds at Augusta National Golf Club (66/R4/2015)
  • Holds his fifth third-round lead/co-lead on the PGA TOUR (1-for-4 to date; won the 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions)
  • Only previous lead/co-lead at a major championship came at the 2017 PGA Championship (R2/finished T5)
  • Making his 87th start since the last of his five PGA TOUR wins: 2014 Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide, 2016 Waste Management Phoenix Open, 2016 WGC-HSBC Champions, 2017 Waste Management Phoenix Open, 2017 WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational
  • Making his 33rd major championship appearance; best finish came at the 2017 U.S. Open (T2)
  • Has finished inside the top 20 in five of his last starts at Augusta National, led by a fifth place showing in 2015
  • Leads the field in Scrambling (13 of 15) and eagles (3)

 Additional Player Notes

  • Xander Schauffele (T2) enjoyed his best finish in three prior starts at the Masters in 2019, finishing T2 and one stroke behind Tiger Woods; has three runner-up finishes this season (2020 THE CJ CUP @ SHADOW CREEK, 2021 Farmers Insurance Open, 2021 Waste Management Phoenix Open)
  • First- and second-round leader Justin Rose (T2) carded a second consecutive even-par 72 and trails Matsuyama by four strokes; 2013 U.S. Open champion is making his 67th major championship appearance; finished T2 in 2015 and 2nd in 2017 for his best finishes in 15 prior appearances at the Masters
  • Marc Leishman (T2) trails by four in bid to join Adam Scott as Aussie winners of the Masters; scoring breakdown for the week: Nos. 1-6 (8-under; 8 birdies), Nos. 7-18 (1-over; 6 birdies, 7 bogeys)
  • Will Zalatoris (T2) would become the first player to win in his debut Masters appearance since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979; the last player to pick up his first PGA TOUR win in a major was Danny Willett at the 2016 Masters; has 10 top-25 finishes in 14 starts this season
  • Corey Conners (6th) aced the par-3 sixth hole with an 8-iron from 182 yards; marks his second ace on the PGA TOUR (2020 BMW Championship/R3/No. 6); of the 33 aces in Masters history, six have come at the sixth hole (most recent: Jamie Donaldson/2013); would become the first winner of the Masters with an ace during the week
  • 2015 Masters champion Jordan Spieth (7th) sits inside the top-10 on the leaderboard through three rounds of the Masters for the sixth time in eight starts (2014/1st/finished T2, 2015/1st/won, 2016/1st/T2, 2017/4th/T11, 2018/9th/3rd, 2021/7th/TBD); the last player to win the week before winning the Masters was Phil Mickelson (2006 BellSouth Classic); leads the field in Greens in Regulation (44 of 54)
  • With his third even-par 72 this week, Jon Rahm (T21) now has 14 consecutive par-or-better rounds at the Masters

 

Published : April 11, 2021