AUGUSTA, GEORGIA | Twelve years ago, former Augusta National chairman Billy Payne and his green-jacketed associates broke protocol and took their famous garments off campus to Asia on a mission to “create heroes.”
“I would say without doubt or equivocation that the green jacket doesn’t need a lot of interpretation anywhere in the world,” Payne said.
With the creation of what was originally called the Asian Amateur Championship, Payne believed the lure of that jacket and what it represents would inspire a new generation of champions from a continent that, as yet, had never won a major.
“One of these kids will show up at Augusta during the Masters and three or four years from now one of them is going to make the cut,” Payne said. “Then hopefully through time it will end up in the desired result.”
It only took two years before one of those kids named Hideki Matsuyama won consecutive Asian Amateurs, and in 2011 he showed up to make the cut at Augusta National and win low amateur. Ten years later, Matusyama completed that desired journey on Sunday and will take the green jacket home to Japan.
“I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the members of Augusta National because I wouldn’t be here today without them,” Matsuyama said on the eve of a victory that will reverberate not only in Japan but across Asia.
The 2021 Masters still wasn’t normal, but it still remains a major tradition unlike any other:
BIRDIE: Hideki Matsuyama. Considering all the weight of expectations on his shoulders as Japan’s biggest golf star and despite the fact he hadn’t won in more than four years, Matsuyama handled the pressure and delivered.
BIRDIE: Olympics. Not sure they care anymore if Dustin Johnson doesn’t show up in Japan this summer. They’ve got their flame starter.
BIRDIE: Shota Hayafuji. Matsuyama’s caddie collected his flag and replaced the pin on 18, then took off his cap and bowed in respect to the course. Perfect gesture to a perfect setup.
So much respect for Augusta. pic.twitter.com/lRyhMtNOlf
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 11, 2021
BOGEY: Xander Schauffele. He overcame a horrid Sunday start and made a valiant charge with birdies on 12, 13, 14 and 15 to make it close. But no matter how perfect he claims that 8-iron was or what the wind did, you can’t rinse it on 16 on Sunday with everything at stake.
BIRDIE: Will Zalatoris. Nearly Will Zoellertoris. From 2,004th in the world and no status on any tour in 2019 to top-50 deadline qualifier for the Masters, he then played such beautiful golf to nearly win a green jacket on his first try. Amazing. He may be the next Augusta prodigy.
BOGEY: Rory McIlroy. The normally chatty Ulsterman is a mess. His swing issues carried him to a first missed cut at Augusta in 11 years and added more scar tissue to his career grand slam quest. But leaving without comment is not what professionals of his stature do.
BIRDIE: Drones. The best thing to come out of the pandemic is Augusta being willing to let its broadcast partners experiment with drone and skyline aerial cameras, and the results continue to be the most spectacular addition to Masters coverage ever. Stunning views.
BOGEY: Justin Rose. That absurd 9-under run in 10 holes on Thursday teed him up to finally get that elusive jacket with a four-shot lead. Failing to break par again flushed that away.
BIRDIE: José Maria Olazábal. Hasn’t played anywhere since the Masters in November. Hasn’t played an Augusta weekend since 2014. Hasn’t played any weekend since 2015. Chema making the cut on Seve’s birthday was exquisite. “It’s like winning the event,” said the emotional two-time winner.
BOGEY: Dustin Johnson. World No. 1 and defending champion was easily inside the cut line until a sloppy 3-bogey finish on his last four holes. Six three-putts for the week doomed him in proper Masters course conditions.
BIRDIE: Kepa Cahill Rahm. The 7.2-pound, 20.5-inch boy arrived the Saturday before Masters week, allowing his father, Jon, to get to Augusta in time to play and rally on Sunday to finish T5. Kepa comes from dad’s Basque heritage and Cahill is momma Kelley’s maiden name.
BOGEY: Brooks Koepka. It was a game effort on a surgically repaired knee. But despite his assurances that he came to win, the four-time major champ never looked comfortable and snapped his streak of playing 23 consecutive major weekends.
BIRDIE: Lee Elder. Though he sadly wasn’t fit to hit his ceremonial first tee shot, Elder’s presence on the first tee at Augusta was as inspiring as it was 46 years ago when he broke the color barrier there in 1975. He said his heart was soft. Ours, too.
BOGEY: Guerilla marketing. Gary Player’s son, Wayne, used his turn at ceremonial caddie to hijack Elder’s moment by conspicuously holding a sleeve of Player-endorsed golf balls behind Elder in camera shots.
BIRDIE: Bubba Watson. The Bubba Slam means donning his green jacket to watch the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, the Drive, Chip & Putt, Honorary Starters and greet the newest member of the Masters Club. He cherishes his place at the table and does it proud.
BOGEY: Sergio García. Since winning his green jacket in 2017, the Spaniard has gone cut-cut-COVID-cut at Augusta.
BIRDIE: Viktor Hovland. Or maybe triple. Double. Eagle. Anything really. Hovland is the most exciting player to watch because he might do anything from chip ins to skulls. Part Seve. Part Phil the Thrill. Part Spieth. Part weekend hacker. He’s spellbinding and smiles regardless.
BOGEY: Puff pastry. Who doesn’t love pigs in a blanket? Weenie sausages baked into a crescent roll. Yum. A place that serves $1.50 pimento cheese on plain white bread presenting fancy kielbasa in puff pastry as PIAB at Champions Dinner is sacrilege.
BIRDIE: Freddie Couples. 1992 winner saw a Masters trivia item that he was the only past champion without a club from his win on display at ANGC: “I missed the memo.” He dug around his garage and found the MacGregor Eye 85 persimmon driver he won with and donated it.
BOGEY: Si Woo Kim. Or is it 3-Wood Kim? Who gets so frustrated they snap their putter with four holes to play and on the first page of Friday leaderboard at the Masters? “I got lucky,” he said of two-putting his way in with 3-wood. “I don’t want to answer any more. Sorry.”
BIRDIE: Late qualifiers. All three players who snuck in at the final top-50 deadline already booked top-12 returns for next year: Zalatoris, Robert MacIntyre and Brian Harman.
ACE: Corey Conners and Tommy Fleetwood. Canada’s Conners rode a Saturday hole-in-one on No. 6 into contention and T8. Fleetwood’s first-round dunk on 16 turned around a moribund 4-over start and sprung the Englishman on a run to the weekend.
BOGEY: Bryson DeChambeau. If par for him really is 67, he shot it once on Friday. But he’s not going to get a jacket shooting 76, 75 and 75 the other days. I mean, that’s 25-over, right?
BIRDIE: Vijay Singh. His body language spoke for all of us with the way he stood on the range mesmerized by DeChambeau’s violent speed-driver session.
We are all Vijay Singh watching Bryson DeChambeau on the practice range. pic.twitter.com/PXkM3ks4NO
— Justus Cleveland (@JustusCleveland) April 5, 2021
BOGEY: Amateurs. None of the three made the cut to earn the silver cup and U.S. Amateur champ Tyler Strafaci looked defeated after rounds of 80-81.
BIRDIE: Crow’s Nest Wheat Ale. The exclusive craft beer (reputedly made for the club by Blue Moon) was offered at the concessions taps for the first time. It’s sweet and refreshing and quite popular for its own logo cups.
BIRDIE: Chicken Salad on Brioche. The former wrap, that was either too soggy or hard, was binned for a soft brioche roll and vaults chicken salad into an upper-sandwich tier with egg salad and Masters Club.
TRIPLE: Justin Thomas. He was right there after the Saturday weather delay until an absolutely gruesome triple bogey on 13 ruined his chances.
BIRDIE: ANGC maintenance staff. Five months after a soggy November edition, the course has never looked more perfect and presented a proper Masters test on purple greens amidst pastel azaleas. Let’s do that again.
PAR: Age. It remains undefeated, taking down a hopeful Lee Westwood bid. But 47-year-old Stewart Cink (T12) qualified to come back and 50-year-old Phil Mickelson (T21) still has some moves out there.
WD: Me. Armed with a half dose of vaccine, let my guard down and ate somewhere in Augusta I’ve avoided like the plague because, you know, the plague. Dropped the ball before crossing the goal line and tested positive.
Photos courtesy Augusta National
© 2021 Global Golf Post LLC
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