Masters champ Matsuyama distraught as Olympic medal slips away

Sports Tokyo 2020

KawagoeJapan | AFP

A distraught Hideki Matsuyama was left heartbroken on Sunday after failing to win a medal at his home Olympics. 

In silver medal position at the start of the day, a shot behind eventual gold medallist Xander Schauffele, Asia’s first US Masters champion fell at the first extra hole in a seven-way playoff for bronze.

Matsuyama, 29, had to cope with the twin pressures of carrying  Japan’s golden golfing hopes and shaking off a bout of coronavirus just a month ago.

He had kept calm and in the mix all week, but wobbled when it mattered most, missing birdie putts on each of the last four holes in regulation. Making just one would have guaranteed a medal on a gripping final day at Kasumigaseki Country Club.

“Since I was in contention, I was really hoping that I could win a medal. I’m really disappointed I wasn’t able to realise that,” said a visibly upset Matsuyama, who usually displays little emotion. 

Rory Sabbatini of Slovakia won silver, while Taiwan’s C.T. Pan earned bronze after prevailing in the agonisingly tense playoff on the fourth extra hole.

“My goal was of course to win the gold. I knew if I had ended my round with birdie, I was going to get a bronze medal,” added Matsuyama, who closed with a two-under 69 in favourable scoring conditions and a 15-under 269 total. 

“I’m left with a frustration that I wasn’t able to convert the opportunities,” he said of falling away on a course where he has enjoyed enormous success in the past, winning the first of his two Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships in 2010 and a Japan Junior Championship. 

“I have no energy or endurance left at this point. But I kept fighting at the end with my heart. Unfortunately, I fell short at the end.”

Matsuyama, who has won six times on the US PGA Tour, carded five birdies but his three bogeys proved costly as he finished three adrift of Schauffele.

Following his historic Masters triumph at Augusta National in April, where he became the first Japanese male golfer to win a major, the entire nation’s hopes were on Matsuyama to take gold for the Olympic hosts.  

“I was not able to deliver the performance I was hoping for,” added Matsuyama. “At the same time, the positive is that I was able to contend.

“I just was not able to put it together at the end. There are some things I need to work on.”

dh/pst

Tokyo 2020 AFP