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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Hideki Matsuyama’s first round in the 60s at the Masters Tournament was his debut in 2011, when he tied for 27th and captured low-amateur honors. He shot 68 on that Saturday and still remembers walking off the 18th green and having Steve Stricker, who was making the turn, say to him, “Nice playing Hideki.”
“That’s a memory I’ll cherish,” Matsuyama said. “And then because of that round … it gave me the confidence that I could play here and that I could play professional golf as a career.”
Ten Masters Saturdays later and Matsuyama again had himself a memorable Moving Day at Augusta National. He fired a blistering 7-under 65 to move to 11 under and take command of this tournament, leading by four shots heading into Sunday.
Matsuyama was just 1 under through 10 holes and had just flared a drive well right on No. 11 when play was suspended for inclement weather. He spent the downtime playing games on his phone; when he returned he was just playing games with the course and the field.
He recovered nicely to birdie No. 11 by sinking a 19-foot putt. He canned a 10-footer at No. 12 and after parring Nos. 13 and 14, he caught fire on softer greens that were ripe for the picking . He hit a beautiful 5-iron 205 yards to 6 feet to eagle the par-5 15th, followed that by stuffing an 8-iron to 4 feet on the par-3 16th and capped off his torrid run with a 10-foot birdie make at the par-4 17th.
“Right before the rain delay, I probably hit the worst shot I’ve hit this week,” Matsuyama said. “And after the rain delay, I just figured, I can’t hit anything worse than that. And so maybe it relieved some pressure, I don’t know, but I did hit it well coming in after the delay. … The 5-iron at 15, by far, the best shot I’ve hit this week.”