Japan’s Matsuyama takes historic lead at Augusta

No Japanese golfer has ever won a major, let alone the Masters. In fact, no player from Japan has ever lead or co-lead any round of the Masters.

And yet here we are at the end of day three with World No. 25 Hideki Matsuyama leading the field by four shots following a superb bogey-free 7-under 65 at Augusta National.

Hideki Matsuyama Hideki Matsuyama (Credit: PGA Tour)

The 29-year-old came off the course with a lone birdie but returned from an hour-long rain delay to tear up the back nine with four birdies and an eagle to equal Justin Rose’s Thursday low-round of the week.

“Before the horn blew, I didn’t hit a very good drive, but after the horn blew for the restart, I hit practically every shot exactly how I wanted to,” said Matsuyama via an interpreter about his sudden change in form following the break.

“I did play well today. And my game plan was carried out, and hopefully tomorrow I can continue good form.”

Sharing second place on 7-under are Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman, Justin Rose and Masters rookie, Will Zalatoris.

Despite his enviable lead, Matsuyama will have his work cut out with three of the four players behind him looking for their first major title and two of those players previous Masters runners-up in Justin Rose and Xander Schauffele.

Leishman also knows that anything can happen on day four.

“If I keep hitting it the way I’m hitting it and can just get the putter hot, you never know what might happen. I’ve had bad rounds here myself and I’ve had good rounds. You can make up four shots fairly quickly, but you have to do a lot of things right to do that,” said the Victorian.

Canadian Corey Conners lies in outright 6th with a hole-in-one at the 6th hole making up for a string of three bogeys that robbed him of a realistic chance at the title tomorrow.

Jordan Spieth needed something special on moving day but another up and down round saw him close out the day with an even-par 72 on 5-under and outright 7th.

Unfortunately it was the end of the line for Cameron Smith’s hopes of a repeat of 2020. The Queenslander could only manage a 1-over 73 and sits well off the pace at 1-under.

Matt Jones (T29) and Adam Scott (54) both tumbled down the leaderboard following rounds of 74 and 79 respectively.

Matsuyama finished low amateur here a decade ago and now has a chance to take home the biggest prize in golf and an historic first for Japanese golf.

“This will be a new experience for me, being a leader going into the final round in a major. I guess all I can do is just relax as I can tonight, prepare well and just do my best tomorrow.”