You couldn’t pick a better Masters winner for world golf than Hideki Matsuyama.
Japan has long had a huge involvement in the sport. They have a fantastic tour and have produced players like Jumbo Ozaki and Tommy Nakajima.
They have also had women’s major champions, in Hisako Higuchi and Hinako Shibuno, but not men’s – until now.
Matsuyama has been a star for a while but winning the Masters is guaranteed to bring more to the game in Japan.
And after Tsubasa Kajitani won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur last week, it’s been an incredible month for the country’s players.
Following a horrific opening tee shot on Sunday, Matsuyama played beautifully until the 12th.
Having bogeyed there he was fortunate not to lose more ground at 13 when he received a kind ricochet off the trees and then could easily have ended up in the azaleas.
The drama really arrived at 15, where he found the water and a six-shot lead was suddenly two.
Again, it could have been worse. How Xander Schauffele’s bunker shot didn’t drop in for eagle I don’t know. Matsuyama, meanwhile, salvaged an unbelievable bogey six.
The way it unfolded reminded me of Lee Westwood chipping in for eagle at 15 when Danny Willett won in 2016.
Leader Jordan Spieth was making seven at the par-three 12th. Suddenly it was all so exciting. Then three minutes later Willett stiffs it on 16 and it’s all over.
The conclusion to this year’s Masters felt similar. Matsuyama had barely seen his lead slashed when Schauffele blew his chance with his very next shot.
Schauffele suffers Masters heartache
I really felt for Schauffele. Having bogeyed the third and fourth and doubled the fifth, he then dug in and showed his class to challenge Matsuyama.
Before finding water off the 16th tee, he had made four birdies in a row. It was such a shame.
But he handled the situation beautifully, like a true gentleman. And a tie for third is still a great finish at a major.
All the plaudits go to Matsuyama, though. His finish on Saturday after the rain delay was sublime, culminating in the most amazing up and down at 18.
He only won by one shot so if he hadn’t made that you could argue he ends up in a play-off. Of course it doesn’t work like that but it was incredible and gave him the four-shot cushion for Sunday that he defended magnificently.
Matsuyama has a special bond with Augusta, having been low amateur on debut in 2011, when he was just 19.
More recently, he has changed his swing slightly, shortening his pause at the top and becoming more fluid. I think that adjustment was instrumental in this victory.
His future looks golden now. He will certainly be a star attraction at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics later this year.
He has broken through into the major-winning world; the doors are open, it is now a case of winning more.
To have come through an event that means so much to him and achieve something of such significance for his country will give him so much confidence.
Zalatoris a breath of fresh air
The other big winner from the Masters was Will Zalatoris, who was a brilliant runner-up on debut.
I’d seen a fair bit of the 24-year-old in recent weeks and he’s been performing well, with top-10 finishes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and Farmers Insurance Open this year.
He’s got tremendous power: when Bernhard Langer teed off with a five iron at the downhill par three sixth, Zalatoris pulled out a nine iron.
He played magnificently on Sunday. He missed a few putts but holed some good ones too and made a fantastic up-and-down at 18 to clinch outright second. Not bad.
On top of all that Zalatoris looks pretty cool too. He’s exciting and a breath of fresh air.
Justin Rose was superb from the eighth hole on Thursday, playing 11 holes in nine under.
It put him in front and in a position he probably didn’t expect to be in, having only recently started working again on his swing with Sean Foley.
That is a lot of pressure to put your game under so early in that process and it didn’t work out. But he handled himself great and his short game was impeccable.
Jon Rahm couldn’t get going until the final round, when he lit the fuse and showed what he could do with a 66 to tie for fifth.
It was a quiet week for Europe, though. Tyrrell Hatton finished with a good 68 and Ian Poulter played well on the whole.
Bob MacIntyre booked his place for next year with a tie for 12th on debut, which was wonderful for the kid.
And it was emotional to see two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal mark the birthday of the late Seve Ballesteros by making the cut, aged 55.
Spieth, fresh from his first win in four years, played really well too.
He was shaping the ball left to right and right to left at will – always a good sign.
It didn’t quite come off for him but Spieth is definitely back.
I thought it was a great Masters. The big players didn’t turn up, but Matsuyama was a very worthy winner.
Sam Torrance OBE is a multiple Ryder Cup-winning golfer and media commentator. Follow him on Twitter @torrancesam.