Tiger, Ernie lead praise for Masters winner Matsuyama

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Hideki Matsuyama. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Hideki Matsuyama. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

A new golf era has dawned in the Land of the Rising Sun thanks to Hideki Matsuyama's victory on Sunday at the Masters, the first major triumph by a Japanese man.

And global golf icon Tiger Woods says Matsuyama's one-stroke win over American Will Zalatoris for the green jacket will resonate worldwide.

"Making Japan proud Hideki," Woods tweeted. "Congratulations on such a huge accomplishment for you and your country. This historical @TheMasters win will impact the entire golf world."

Matsuyama hopes his success will inspire legions of Japanese golfers to follow his example and launch careers in the sport, much the way "Tigermania" sparked greater interest after Woods won the 1997 Masters.

"I hope it will affect golf in a good way, not only those who are golfers already but the youngsters who are inclined to play golf," Matsuyama said through a translator.

"I hope they will see this victory and think it's cool and try and follow in my footsteps.

"Maybe a lot of younger golfers thought, 'That's an impossibility,' but with me doing it they will realise it is possible and if they set their minds to it they can do it."

South Africa's Ernie Els, a two-time US Open and two-time British Open champion, told Golf Channel his win would be "a cherry on the cake for the whole nation - really uneblievable. It would be incredible. Golf in Japan is such a huge sport."

Els, who is Matsuyama's Presidents Cup captain, added on Twitter: "Congrats Hideki Matsuyama. Historic day and win @TheMasters for you, your family and your fellow countrymen in Japan. A huge day for international golf. I am so proud of you and so is the entire @PresidentsCup team. Well done Hideki!"

Australia's Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters champion and the only man from his homeland to win the Masters, says the new champion can expect his own "Matsu-mania" in Japan.

"He's a bit like a Tiger Woods to the rest of the world, Hideki in Japan," Scott said. "He has got such a big following every week, no matter how he plays anyway.

"I think he'd become the superstar of Japan if he isn't already. I don't think he really feels the weight of expectation like we all kind of can see what it would mean for Japan and golf over there."

A huge media contingent follows Matsuyama, noted three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo.

"It's a fanatical nation for golf. Golf is on the national news," Faldo said. "The weight he's carrying... the intensity is 10 times more than a regular tournament."

South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, sees only good things for golf-loving Japan and its unprecedented champion.

"I think it's time for someone that side (of the world) winning a major and it'll be great for Hideki and for his country," Oosthuizen said. "The Japanese people are great people, and they love their golf. I think it'll be a great thing for his country."

The best prior majors by Japanese men were Isao Aoki's runner-up effort at the 1980 US Open and Matsuyama's share of second at the 2017 US Open.

No prior Japanese player had finished better than fourth at the Masters.

Japan's two previous major golf titles belonged to women, Chako Higuchi from the 1977 LPGA Championship and Hinako Shibuno at the 2019 Women's British Open.

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