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Masters reaction: Drama didn’t materialize, but don’t blame Matsuyama

Masters reaction: Drama didn’t materialize, but don’t blame Matsuyama

Kind of like in the NCAA Tournament, there was no drama on the final day of the Masters. But don’t blame Baylor, and don’t blame Hideki Matsuyama. They were were just too good.

It wasn’t entirely over right when it started, as was the case with Baylor vs. Gonzaga this past Monday. Will Zalatoris pulled to within one shot of Matsuyama after just two holes and–after the 29-year-old from Japan had extended his lead–Xander Schauffele cut the deficit to two with three holes remaining.

But it was rarely if ever in serious doubt. Matsuyama was always the favorite in the live betting market—overwhelmingly so when he held a six-shot lead at one point on Sunday afternoon. The world No. 25 stumbled down the stretch with bogeys at 15, 16, and 18, but he only erred on 16 and 18 because he was playing conservative golf with one arm basically already in the green jacket. When Schauffele went in the water on the par-3 16th, it was all but over.

What’s next for Matsuyama?

Prior to this week’s festivities at Augusta National, Matsuyama was without question one of the best players in the world to have never won a major. He already had 14 career victories (five on the PGA Tour) to go along with seven top-10 performances at majors—including a runner-up finish at the 2017 U.S. Open. This is absolutely no fluke; in fact, Matsuyama lifting another major trophy is a sight we might see on more than a few occasions in the future.

Also in his favor is that some of the pressure will now be off. In part because of the language barrier and because he seems to be a reserved person by nature, it is hard to tell just how much pressure Matsuyama has felt throughout his decade-plus career. But you know it’s there. Being the long-time best player from Japan has to be a burden. Expectations and anticipation have been off the charts for a while now, and at long last Matsuyama delivered. Expectations may be even higher following this triumph, of course, but the desperation for the Japanese faithful to see him win a big one is no longer present. Anything more will be icing on the cake.

And that’s exactly why there may be something more.

The challengers

None of Matsuyama’s closest competitors handled themselves consistently well from start to finish…except for Will Zalatoris. The 24-year-old American never wavered after even after Matsuyama’s lead ballooned from one shot to six. He carded a solid 70 to be the only player other than the championship to shoot under par in all three rounds.

You would have thought that someone with more experience would be the one to seriously challenge Matsuyama (Zalatoris was making only his third-ever major appearance). Schauffele made a brief charge with birdies at 12, 13, 14, and 15, but the world No. 6 was already too far behind due to a 4-over stretch on holes 4, 5, and 6 before throwing his comeback hopes away with a triple on 16. Spieth shot himself out of it with three bogeys on the first six holes before making a way-too-late charge. Justin Rose and Marc Leishman never did anything.

Of the aforementioned Masters contenders, Spieth and Schauffele are the top two choices for next month’s PGA Championship at +1600. Dustin Johnson, the 2020 Masters champion who missed the cut this week, is the overall favorite at +1100. Matsuyama is +2700, while Zalatoris is +3300.

Pickswise is the home of free expert Golf Picks and Predictions. Our outright PGA expert picks go live every Tuesday, so be sure check out our golf picks, best bets, and analysis for the Masters when those go live. We will also have our 2021 Masters 3-ball picks and our best golf prop bets for each round of the 2021 Masters.

Last updated: Sun 11th April 2021

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