Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan celebrates while wearing the Green Jacket after the final round of the 2021 Masters Tournament on Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
April 11 (UPI) -- Japan's Hideki Matsuyama held off an erratic Xander Schauffele for a one-stroke victory at the 85th Masters Tournament on Sunday at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia, claiming his first major title and the Green Jacket.
With the victory, Matsuyama made history as the first male golfer from Japan to win a major championship. He is only the second man from an Asian country to win a major, joining South Korea's Y.E. Yang, who beat Tiger Woods at the 2009 PGA Championship.
"Hopefully, I'll be a pioneer and many other Japanese will follow," said Matsuyama, who received the Green Jacket from 2020 winner Dustin Johnson.
Matsuyama, who is now a six-time winner on the PGA Tour, won more than $2 million in prize money for his improbable triumph at Augusta.
Before the tournament, many sportsbooks listed him at 60-1 odds to win the Masters, making him one of the biggest long shots to win the event since Danny Willett in 2016.
The 29-year-old Matsuyama, who shot 65 in Saturday's third round, closed with a 1-over 73 on the final day to finish the tournament with a 10-under 278. He built a six-stroke lead on the back nine, but watched it disappear after a series of mistakes and a late surge from Schauffele.
Holding a four-shot advantage, Matsuyama went for the green in two on the par-5 15th hole. Instead, he found the water and bogeyed the hole.
Schauffele, meanwhile, made his fourth consecutive birdie on hole No. 15 to cut Matsuyama's lead to just two shots with three to play.
Schauffele's next swing all but ended his comeback attempt. His tee shot on the par-3 16th bounded off the hill and trickled into the pond. His third shot from the drop area traveled into the gallery, leading to his triple-bogey 6.
It was the first triple-bogey of Schauffele's major championship career. Before his blunders on the 16th hole, he carded birdies on Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 15 to make it interesting.
On the front nine, Schauffele sank three birdies, but also had two bogeys and a double bogey, finishing at even-par 72 in what proved to be an inconsistent final day for the American.
"I was pretty wild, I'd say," Schauffele said. "I fought hard and I felt like I made it exciting at the end. I hit a really good shot there on 16. I committed to it and hit a perfect shot. We thought it was down and left to right, it was not down and left to right. And the rest is history."
Despite bogeying three of his last four holes, Matsuyama held on to become the first Masters champion with a final round over par since Trevor Immelman's 75 in 2008.
Five-time Green Jacket winner Tiger Woods congratulated Matsuyama on social media after his historic victory at Augusta, saying it would "impact the entire golf world."
"Making Japan proud, Hideki," Woods wrote on Twitter. "Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment for you and your country. This historical [Masters] win will impact the entire golf world."
Will Zalatoris, the 24-year-old Masters rookie, took advantage of Schauffele's struggles and finished behind Matsuyama at 9-under 279, earning more than $1.2 million in winnings. It was the best finish by a first-timer at the tournament since Jordan Spieth was runner-up in 2014 to Bubba Watson.
Spieth and Schauffele tied for third at 7-under 281.
Jon Rahm had a final-round-best 66 to jump 16 spots and share fifth with Marc Leishman. Justin Rose, who entered the weekend as the leader, came in seventh at 5-under for the tourney.
Last year's Masters champion, Dustin Johnson (L), bumps fists with 2021 champion Hideki Matsuyama of Japan after the final round of the 2021 Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., on Sunday. Matsuyama won his first major at10 under par. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo