2021 Masters

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    This year’s Masters made for quite an exciting week of golf. Augusta showed it’s teeth early on with rock hard, baked greens which made it very incredibly difficult for players to hold their approaches on the putting surface. As a result, only 12 players were under par after the first round. This was an Augusta many of us viewers and evidently a lot of players were not exactly used to. Two-time runner-up finisher at The Masters, Justin Rose appeared to be playing a totally different golf course on Thursday than anyone else, as he fired off a -7 65. Rose’s 65 left him four ahead of the second place finishers, Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama. Honestly, for a long time it looked as though Rose was going to run away with this one. But, as the course softened due to rain and Rose began to falter on Saturday, the leaderboard started to swell. Amazingly, Rose played the rest of the week at E, and this was not enough to capture the Green Jacket this year. I suspect Rose’s back issues may have flared up on Saturday, particularly after the rain delay. As for most players with back trouble, it is very difficult to start playing again after stopping for an hour or so, as the back stiffens up, and it was quite apparent that Rose was not the same after the rain delay. With Rose beginning to flail, Hideki Matsuyama took the lead role, firing off his own -7 65 to take a four shot lead going into Sunday at -11. Matsuyama’s playing partner on Sunday was the young and talented Xander Schauffele. For much of the final round, Matsuyama was solid, only making one bogey on the front nine and three birdies. Conversely, it looked as though Schauffele was falling fast, as he made two bogeys and double bogey on the front nine to fall 7 shots off the lead of Matsuyama. Incredibly, Schauffele was willing to go down so easily, as he made back to back birdies on the 7th and 8th holes, and then made four consecutive birdies on 12 through 15, leaving him only two shots behind Matsuyama going to the accessible sixteenth hole.  Unfortunately, Schauffele promptly dunked his approach on 16 into the water and made a triple bogey, crushing his late charge. The next player hot on Matsuyama’s tail was the young and coming Will Zalatoris, who played the final round very well, staying within striking distance of Matsuyama for most of Sunday. As Matsuyama bogeyed three out of his closing four holes and after a birdying the 17th hole, Zalatoris’ chances of victory seemed quite realistic.  However, Zalatoris was unable to birdie the last hole, which allowed Matsuyama to go to the 18th hole with a two shot cushion. From there, Matsuyama made a comfortable bogey, and finished one shot ahead of Zalatoris, capturing the coveted Green Jacket. Matsuyama took down top tour pro’s besides Zalatoris, Justin Rose, and Schauffele to win this Masters including Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, and Jon Rahm, which I’m certain makes this victory all the more cherishing. This win is not only an incredible feat for Matsuyama, but also for his native country of Japan, as he became the first Japanese player to win this tournament. This was a milestone for Matsuyama and he can’t receive enough praise for accomplishing what so many before him have dreamed of. This victory also broke a nearly four year winless streak from Matsuyama, and I think it’s safe to conclude that he has now securely established himself as force on the Tour in the years to come. Many of us though without the great Tiger Woods in the field, this Masters may feel a bit flat, but we were wrong. I am very much looking forward to next year’s Masters, and I can only hope that one will provide us with the same kind of excitement this one did.

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