'Wonderful gesture': Sporting world moved by touching Masters moment

Andrew Reid
·5-min read
Hideki Matsuyama's caddie was praised for a beautiful gesture after his man claimed the green jacket. Pic: Masters
Hideki Matsuyama's caddie was praised for a beautiful gesture after his man claimed the green jacket. Pic: Masters

Hideki Matsuyama created history after winning the Masters to become Japan's first winner of a men's golf major, but it was his caddie that stole the show.

Matsuyama's historic feat came after he finished at 10-under 278 with tournament rookie Will Zalatoris second after a two-under 70.

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The magnitude of becoming the first male player from his country to capture one of golf's major championships brought tears to Matsuyama's eyes but it was a beautiful gesture from his caddie - that went largely unseen at the time - that melted the hearts of fans.

As is tradition for the winning caddie, Matsuyama's bag man Shota Hayafuji removed the flag from the 18th pin, before returning the flagstick on the iconic 18th green at Augusta National.

He then removed his hat and bowed in a superb act of respect for the illustrious course and the traditions it symbolises in the golfing world.

It was a brief but poignant act from the caddie that drew widespread praise from viewers on social media.

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A decade after visiting Butler Cabin to receive the low amateur trophy, the 29-year-old Matsuyama survived some late jitters to post a one-over 73 and claim a one-shot victory at Augusta National.

He joined a select group of Cary Middlecoff, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia as players to win both low amateur and the green jacket at the Masters.

"I can't imagine what it's going to be like, but what a thrill and honour it will be for me to take the green jacket back to Japan. I'm really looking forward to it," Matsuyama said.

"Up until now, we haven't had a major champion in Japan, and maybe a lot of golfers or younger golfers, too, thought, well, maybe that's an impossibility.

"But with me doing it, hopefully that will set an example for them that it is possible and that, if they set their mind to it, they can do it, too."

Matsuyama overcomes wobbly start to final round

Ultimately Matsuyama finished at 10-under 278 with tournament rookie Will Zalatoris second after a two-under 70.

Jordan Spieth (70) sealed his fifth top-five at Augusta with a share of third alongside Xander Schauffele (72) at seven under.

A charge from Marc Leishman never materialised with the Australian signing for a 73 to tie for fifth at six under with Jon Rahm, whose 66 was the best round of the final day.

Nerves at the beginning and end of his round almost brought Matsuyama undone but otherwise he looked every bit a champion.

His four-shot overnight buffer was slashed to just one after a nervous opening-hole bogey but he rebounded with a birdie at the second led by five after 13 holes.

Schauffele cut the lead to two shots with a birdie at the 15th, with his playing partner Matsuyama making bogey after drilling his approach shot long into a pond.

But just as quickly Schauffele's hopes were sunk when his tee shot at the 16th found water and he made the first triple-bogey of his major championship career.

Zalatoris posted nine under but a two-shot buffer on the 18th tee was plenty for Matsuyama and his final hole bogey affected nothing but the final score.

Seen here, Hideki Matsuyama celebrates after winning the prestigious green jacket.
Hideki Matsuyama is Japan's first winner of a men's major golf trophy. Pic: Getty

"He's a bit like a Tiger Woods is to the rest of the world, Hideki in Japan," Australian Adam Scott said of his mate who now joins him in the exclusive Masters champions club.

"The crowds in Japan are fanatical.

"They love the game, and they love the superstars going over there.

"I remember I took the green jacket in '13 when I went, and it was an incredible response I got, so I can only imagine what Hideki will experience."

There was already speculation Matsuyama could be called on to light the Olympic flame in Tokyo later this year, a feat he said would be "quite an honour".

He will spearhead Japan's medal hopes in what will no doubt be astonishing scenes at the men's golf competition.

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