In March, 2020, Hideki Matsuyama was flying high at the Players Championship, shooting a 63 in the opening round. That tournament could have been a breakthrough for the Japanese star, who recorded five wins from 2014 to 2017. Instead, the tournament was canceled at the outbreak of the pandemic.
Just over a year later, Matsuyama demonstrated why he’s long been considered one of the best in the world, hanging on during the final round to better Will Zalatoris by a shot, finishing at 10-under par.
For most of the final day, it appeared Matsuyama would potentially run away with the tournament, especially when he was 13-under, a few shots clear of his closest competition. But closing your first major championship win is always challenging, as Matsuyama found out first hand. He played the front nine in 2-under par, but the wheels almost came off on the back nine, making four bogeys in the last seven holes to bring Zalatoris into the mix.
“I’m really happy,” Matsuyama said during the green jacket ceremony in the Butler Cabin following the round. “Hopefully, I’ll be a pioneer in this and many other Japanese will follow. I’m proud to be able to open the floodgates, finally, and many others will follow me.”
A standout on the Korn Ferry Tour, Zalatoris was largely unknown heading into the tournament, despite finishing in the Top 10 at the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. He gained special temporary status on the PGA Tour in November. This was his first Masters and he intended to have fun being in the mix. “[I want to] enjoy it,” he said of his final round experience. “You’ll see me every single time when I’m on 12, kind of looking back when we cross the bridge and just kind of looking back on Amen Corner. Enjoy it. I’ve been wanting to do this my entire career, and I put myself in a pretty good spot.” He carded birdies on two of his last four holes on Sunday to put pressure on Matsuyama, finishing the tournament at 9-under, one shot back.
The resurgent Masters winner put himself in a tough spot to pull off a win an even-par 72 on Saturday. But Spieth, who clearly loves playing at Augusta, put on a show on the final nine, making five birdies before dropping a shot on the 18th hole. He finished 2-under on the day and 7-under for the tournament in a tie for third-place with Xander Schauffele.
Rahm made a wonderful run on Sunday, carding four birdies and an eagle to vault up the leaderboard with a 6-under 66. Try as he might, Rahm was too far back to make up enough ground, finishing at 6-under for the tournament. “It was all fun and games up until I made that birdie on 12 and I looked up and I’m like, ‘I’m not that far away,’” Rahm said. “I tried my best at the end. It’s just with the wind gusts and the greens being that firm, pars are obviously great. I played really, really, really good golf today to shoot the 6-under, which it looks like it might be the best round of the day.”
Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Bryson DeChambeau
Johnson, the defending champ, and McIlroy, who desperately wants to finish the career Grand Slam with a win at Augusta, both struggled and didn’t play the weekend. DeChambeau was knocked about for the second time in five months at Augusta. His big-hitting game simply hasn’t played well at the last two Masters, and he finished at five-over for the tournament.
On Saturday, Listowel, Ont.’s Corey Conners electrified his home country by knocking in an ace on the sixth hole of the third round, and making Canadians believe a repeat of Mike Weir’s 2003 win at Augusta was possible. Filled with confidence rarely found at The Masters, he finished the round within striking distance of the lead.
It’s an Ace for Corey Conners! 🎯 pic.twitter.com/4tos5pijkw
— Golf Town (@GolfTown) April 10, 2021
“The shot on 6 was obviously really special and kind of sparked things a little bit,” Conners said. “Hit another beautiful shot on 9 and a really good shot on 10. It spun back off the green and kind of fooled me a bit there. I struck a lot of iron shots just how I wanted, and I was swinging with confidence and hopefully can keep doing that tomorrow.”
But Conners’ fairytale week came to a halt on Sunday during the final holes of the front nine. Despite making a birdie on his second hole, Conners stumbled on the fifth hole in the final, making three bogeys and a double-bogey in a four-hole stretch to drop well behind Matsuyama.
Despite the struggles on Sunday that saw him finish a 2-over 74, his second over-par round of the week, Conners still finished in a tie for 8th. That means a return visit for the Canadian who is in the midst of a breakout season, ranking 25th in the FedExCup standings. Past champion and newly announced ambassador Mike Weir missed the cut, while Dundas, Ont.’s Mackenzie Hughes closed with a 76 to finish in a tie for 40th.
WHATS IN THE BAG (WITB)
Driver: Srixon ZX5
Fairway Wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Titanium
Driving Iron: TaylorMade SIM UDI
Irons: Srixon Z-Forged
Wedges: Cleveland RTX 4 (52, 56, 60 degrees)
Putter: Scotty Cameron Newport prototype
Ball: Srixon Z-Star XV