One of the most iconic golf tournaments in the world, the Masters, concluded on Sunday with a historic result. Hideki Matsuyama, who finished the weekend at 10-under, became the first Japanese male golfer to win a major. Along with this, he became only the second male Asian golfer to win a major, the other being Yang Yong-eun of South Korea who came from behind to defeat Tiger Woods at the 2009 PGA Championships.
Matsuyama started off well at Augusta National, finishing round one in second place behind Justin Rose. Matsuyama continued his solid play throughout days two and three. He was paired in the final group on Sunday with Xander Schaufelle. He started the final day with a four-stroke advantage and finished the round 1-over, which gave him a one-stroke victory over 24-year-old rookie Will Zalatoris, who finished at 9-under.
Matsuyama, 29, has been a professional since 2013 and has 15 professional wins in his career, with the Masters being his first major. Until Sunday, he had not won a tournament since 2017. His play has been fairly average as of recently, but he was able to put on the performance of a lifetime to capture one of golf’s most coveted accolades, the Green Jacket.
This victory is important for many reasons. First, Japan has a rich history of producing world-class golfers who have come very close to winning major championships but have all fallen short. This victory will undoubtedly boost the popularity of golf in Japan, as it is already considered one of the nation’s top sports. His win also gave millions of young aspiring Japanese golfers a chance to see someone from their country win on an international stage and provide an inspiration for generations to come.
Second, and more importantly, Matsuyama’s victory comes at a time when anti-Asian racism and hate crimes have reached a high point, not only in the United States but around the world. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been countless stories of race-based hate crimes directed at Asians, as some people falsely blame Asians for the spread of the deadly virus that has claimed the lives of around 3 million people worldwide.
In addition to the physical violence that has been committed against a countless number of innocent people, it is also the discriminatory and derogatory rhetoric used by public figures such as former President of the United States Donald Trump that can create negative long-term effects. Referring to COVID-19 as “the Chinese Virus” and “Kung Flu” causes some people to project hate onto other people who they deem to be at fault solely based on their skin color.
The hate and violence that we have seen countless times on videos over the past year highlights the history of racism that is so deeply embedded into American society.
Matsuyama’s victory is historically important because it forces us to have these essential conversations. These discussions allow us to relate the triumphs and joys of making history in sports to the devastating reality of continued bias, hate, and racism that pervades our society. His triumph at the Masters will go down in history, and Matsuyama is yet another symbol of hope and inspiration for millions of people that look up to him.