Inspirational Hideki Matsuyama celebrates at Masters knowing another major challenge is now on its way

Hideki Matsuyama kept his nerve to claim victory at The Masters and secure a maiden Major triumph.

But as the Japanese star sat back in the comfort of his new purpose-fit green jackett to take stock of what he had just achieved, there as a realisation that he could not afford to rest on his laurels.

His homeland has never been able to celebrate a Major win from one of it’s male competitors.

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Isao Aoki came close with a runner-up finish at the 1980 US Open.

Hideki Matsuyama celebrates during the Green Jacket Ceremony after winning the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. Picture: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Meanwhile, Hisako Higuchi (1977 LGPA Championship) and Hinako Shibuno (2019 Women's Open) have been victors in the female ranks.

History was therefore made when Matsuyama, who finished on 10 under par after a final day one-over 73, held off the Augusta field to claim a one-shot victory over nearest challenge Will Zalatoris.

And with his heroics now expected to inspire a nation, where golf is still seen in some quarters as an elitist sport, the 29-year-old quipped any fresh-faced, would-be challengers to his throne would need to bring their A-game to the party.

The world-rank No 25 said: ‘It’s thrilling to think that there are a lot of youngsters in Japan watching today.

‘Hopefully in five, 10 years, when they get a little older, hopefully some of them will be competing on the world stage.

‘But I still have a lot of years left, so they are going to have to compete against me still!

‘But I'm happy for them because hopefully they will be able to follow in my footsteps.’

Matsuyama’s victory at Augusta come as no surprise, despite not claiming a win on the PGA Tour since 2017.

He won the Silver Cup at Augusta for finishing as top amateur in 2011, while four top-15 placings – including a top-five finish in 2015 – were recorded over the historic Georgia course in the build-up to his 2021 success.

As well as the threat of youngsters in his home country wanting to emulate and better his Major breaktrhough, the latest recipient of the $2,070,000,00 Masters winner’s cheque is well aware that the eyes of the world will be on him once again when the Olympic Games are held in Japan this summer.

Expectations will be high that he can secure gold on home soil.

But Matsuyama said he’d be ready, even if talk of lighting the Olympic cauldron on the back of his Augusta triumph appeared to embarrass him.

‘I'm really looking forward to the Olympic Games in Tokyo,’ he added.

‘If I am on the team, and maybe it looks like I will be, I'll do my best to represent my country, and hopefully I'll play well.

‘It would be quite an honour (to light the cauldron).

‘But I'm not sure about my schedule. If the schedules worked out and I am in Japan when that happens and they ask me, what an honour that would be.’

Justin Rose won the last golf gold at the 2016 Olympics.

He was well-positioned going into the final day of The Masters, sharing second place with Zalatoris, Xander Schauffele and Marc Leishman on seven under, all of whom were four shots behind Matsuyama, who started the day on 11 under.

Yet, his challenge faded out on Sunday, with the 2013 US Open winner shooting a two-over par 74 to finish on five under.

The bids of Schauffele (72) and Leishman (73) also failed to materialise as they finished on seven and six under respectively.

However, Zalatoris – on his Augusta debut – gave it a good go to claim the runners-up spot, shooting 70 on the last day to finish just a shot behind the leader on nine under.

Jordan Spieth also carded a 70 to finished joint-third with Scauffele on seven under.

Meanwhile, Jon Rahm’s final-day 66 saw him tied for fifth with Leishman.

Rose ended up seventh after leading over earlier rounds.