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Golf | Matsuyama sends Japanese hearts racing

Crossover point! Hideki Matsuyama has put himself in line to become the first ever Japanese to win a Major.   | Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox

Hideki Matsuyama unleashed an incredible back-nine shot-making display to seize a four-stroke lead after Saturday's third round of the Masters, putting the Japanese star on the brink of a historic triumph at Augusta National.

Matsuyama, trying to become the first Japanese man to win a Major title, fired a seven-under 65, his career-low 18-hole Masters total and the first bogey-free round of the week, to stand on 11-under 205.

England's Justin Rose, Australian Marc Leishman and Americans Xander Schauffele and Will Zalatoris shared second on 209.

Matsuyama adapted as lightning-fast Augusta National was softened by rain, taking full advantage by going six-under on a seven-hole stretch of the back nine.

After a 78-minute storm delay, swirling winds vanished and the wet course was receptive. However, slowed greens became tricky to read — except by Matsuyama.

Japan's Tsubasa Kajitani won the Augusta National women's amateur title last Saturday and Matsuyama said she was an inspiration to him this week.

"What she did was fantastic," he said. "I can follow in her shoes and make Japan proud."

Matsuyama, who hasn't won since the 2017 Akron WGC event, has seven top-10 finishes in Majors, including a 2017 US Open runner-up effort.

Rose, the 2013 US Open champion who began the day with a one-stroke lead, opened with back-to-back birdies to reach 9-under but the two-time Masters runner-up needed a long par putt at 18 to fire a second consecutive par 72.

Zalatoris, trying to become the first player to win on Masters debut since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, fired a 71 while Leishman shot 70.

Canada's Corey Conners electrified the crowd with a hole-in-one at the 180-yard par-3 sixth on his way to a 68 to stand sixth on 210.

It was the second ace of this year's Masters. England's Tommy Fleetwood aced the par-3 16th on Thursday for the first.

Top scores: 205: Hideki Matsuyama 69, 71, 65; 209: Xander Schauffele 72, 69, 68, Marc Leishman 72, 67, 70, Justin Rose 65, 72, 72, Will Zalatoris 70, 68, 71; 210: Corey Conners 73, 69, 68; 211: Jordan Spieth 71, 68, 72.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 7:24:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/matsuyama-sends-japanese-hearts-racing/article34296689.ece

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