Matsuyama's Masters win has changed golf and Olympic gold could follow, says former caddie

By Sports Desk April 16, 2021

Hideki Matsuyama's history-making Masters triumph has changed the face of golf, according to the 29-year-old's former caddie.

Matsuyama claimed the famous green jacket on Sunday, becoming the first Japanese man to win a major tournament in the process.

His victory came in thrilling fashion, Matsuyama seeing off competition from Will Zalatoris, Jordan Spieth and Xander Schauffele to finish 10 under par at Augusta.

Before Matsuyama's achievement, female stars Hinako Shibuno (2019 Women's British Open) and Chako Higuchi (1977 LPGA Championship) were Japan's previous golf major winners.

Daisuke Shindo caddied for Matsuyama between 2013 and 2018, and he believes Matsuyama's win will lead to a change in the sport not only in Asia, but across the globe.

"He has made history, not only in Japan but also Asia and the world. I think it was a moment that changed the world of golf. I think it was such a great achievement," Shindo told Stats Perform News.

"I think that is huge. We grew up watching Tiger Woods when we were young. I grew up watching Jumbo Ozaki and Shigeki Maruyama. I still admire them now.

"I think it was a great inspiration for all the children who saw Hideki win the Masters, and not only the children but also the professional golfers.

"I think Hideki's victory had a great impact on people who don't play golf. For the past a couple of days, I've been hearing 'golf, golf' anywhere all over town. It's amazing. I've never heard ordinary young people talking about golf. I think it's amazing."

Shindo also backed Matsuyama to win another major this year, as he believes his ex-university classmate has finally delivered on his promise after previously managing five PGA Tour wins.

"Every player is really hard on themselves. That's why they keep the position as top athletes," Shindo added.

"But if you're too hard on yourself, you're not going to be able to relax and you're going to get frustrated. Golf is a sport [in] which you have to accept mistakes, but it's very important to find a balance. I think Matsuyama accepted his mistakes this time and played golf in a very positive way.

"Even in a tough situation, he didn't panic, and even when the flow of the game was bad, he was always patient. He didn't look frustrated, he wasn’t shaken at all and looked calm.

"I still play golf and have dinner with Hideki when he comes back to Japan. We are more like brothers in arms than former partners.

"I was really happy. I saw how he was always fighting, with all the pressure from Japanese supporters. At the moment Hideki was finally rewarded, I really cried."

One certain way to cement golf's growing popularity in Japan would be with a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, with Shindo foreseeing a rise to world number one.

"I think it has boosted the confidence of not just Matsuyama but all the members of 'Team Matsuyama'," Shindo said.

"It's a great way to build momentum as a team. Now Hideki has that confidence. I think the team will be strong when that happens. I am confident that he will win a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

"For Hideki, it's better for him to have a little pressure. He is such a strong and big guy. I think he's going to do well at the Olympics and he's going to be number one in the world ranking.

"When I was on tour with him, his highest ranking was two, but I think he will rise to number one."

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    The 30-year-old was a shot back from overnight leaders Calum Hill, Robert MacIntyre and Richard Bland at the start of play on Friday, but a second successive 68 moved him into the lead.

    Pepperell, who won the tournament in 2018, finished strongly with three birdies in his last seven holes - including an impressive 40-foot putt on the 18th.

    That moved the world number 210 to 10 under for the tournament, with six players - including erstwhile leaders Hill and MacIntyre - in a tie for second.

    Edoardo Molinari, Adrian Meronk, Dean Burmester and Guido Migliozzi were all also a stroke off the pace in a congested pack that saw the leading 26 players separated by five shots at the 54-hole stage.

    "I remember the game feeling easier when I was playing better a few years ago. That's what I'm trying to get back to," Pepperell told Sky Sports.

    "There were times out there today I didn't get it and times when I did - that seems to be the way it is.

    "I've still got things going on in the swing that I can feel aren't where they once were and can cause me aggro, so the game still feels difficult."

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    Three birdies in his last four holes ensured that MacIntyre's fellow Scotsman Hill also remained firmly in the mix, while Molinari revived his own hopes by posting a 64, the lowest score of the day.

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    Hill held a one-shot advantage when he teed off at the 18th at The Belfry on Thursday, but moved to back seven under in a disappointing finish.

    The 26-year-old Kirkcaldy native was a shot back from overnight leader Matthias Schwab at the start of the day and a two-under 70 kept him firmly in the mix.

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    Back-to-back gains followed straight after the turn, but he was unable to stay out on his own, bogeying the final hole after reeling off six consecutive pars.

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