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© Reuters. The Masters

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan sucked in its breath as Hideki Matsuyama nearly blew his likelihood to win the Masters however the golfer’s one-shot victory at Augusta Nationwide sparked a joyous response again house because the nation celebrated one other sporting triumph in testing occasions.

Matsuyama, 29, grew to become the primary man from Japan to win one in every of golf’s main titles, a feat that drew reward from authorities and Olympics officers with the Tokyo Video games simply three months away.

Katsunobu Kato, Japan’s high authorities spokesman, expressed “congratulations and respect from the center” for Matsuyama’s “historic” win, which got here as one other ray of hope in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s one other vibrant piece of reports of a Japanese athlete’s excellent efficiency on the worldwide stage beneath powerful circumstances like coaching,” Kato advised an everyday information convention.

Kato pointed to tennis participant Naomi Osaka’s win on the Australian Open and Shohei Ohtani’s excellent efficiency each as a hitter and a batter this week in Main League Baseball as additional proof of Japan’s sporting success.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga known as Matsuyama’s win “fantastic” and a supply of pleasure and braveness for the Japanese individuals in the course of the difficulties posed by the pandemic.

Matsuyama has began Sunday’s remaining spherical with a four-shot lead and looking out a robust wager to hitch Hinako Shibuno and Chako Higuchi as Japanese main champions. Shibuno gained the Girls’s British Open in 2019 and Higuchi gained the Girls’s PGA Championship, previously often called the LPGA Championship, in 1977.

However Matsuyama’s march to win the coveted Inexperienced Jacket hit a velocity bump on the par 5 fifteenth, the place his strategy shot went within the water behind the inexperienced.

He might solely make bogey whereas enjoying accomplice Xander Schauffele birdied the outlet, turning Matsuyama’s snug four-shot cushion right into a slender two-shot lead.

Schauffele’s triple-bogey on the subsequent gap gave Matsuyama some respiration area and whereas he dropped two extra strokes over the closing three holes it was sufficient for a one-shot win over Masters debutant Will Zalatoris.

Matsuyama’s win has prompted requires him to be given the honour of lighting the Olympic Video games cauldron on the opening ceremony in July.

“It might be fairly an honour,” he mentioned in a PGA Tour assertion. “However I am undecided about my schedule. If the schedules labored out and I’m in Japan when that occurs they usually ask me, what an honour that will be.”

Hidemasa Nakamura, the Video games supply officer for the Tokyo Olympics organising committee, advised Reuters he stayed up late at night time to observe Matsuyama.

“It was a pleasant encouragement as a result of we wish to put together for this summer season in Tokyo in order that such hard-working gamers can play an lively function,” he mentioned.

Matsuyama’s victory was already already inspiring golf lovers in Japan.

“Right this moment I watched many sluggish movement movies by the published and it is a dream,” mentioned Masachika Sawano, a 48-year-old lawyer.

“If I might just do one in every of Mr. Matsuyama’s performs, that will be good,” he advised Reuters at Hills Golf Academy in Tokyo.

Taishi Fukuzawa, the college’s supervisor, hoped for a lift in enterprise.

“With this, even those that do not golf — as we do have the Olympics this yr as effectively — can hopefully find out about golf,” Fukuzawa mentioned.

“I hope that this may pump up the golf trade.”

For a graphic exhibiting the ultimate Masters scores, click on right here https://graphics.reuters.com/GOLF-MASTERS/bdwvklzdxpm/chart.png.