Hideki Matsuyama tapped in the winning putt at the Masters and unleashed the heavy burden of a nation piled on his shoulders.
Already an idol in Japan, now he’s an immortal.
The magnitude of becoming the first male player from his country to capture one of golf’s major championships had brought tears to his eyes even before he hit his greenside bunker shot on the final hole.
A decade after visiting Butler Cabin to receive the low amateur trophy, the 29-year-old Matsuyama survived some late jitters to post a one-over 73 and claim a one-shot victory at Augusta National.
He joined a select group of Cary Middlecoff, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia as players to win both low amateur and the green jacket at the Masters.
“I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like, but what a thrill and honour it will be for me to take the green jacket back to Japan. I’m really looking forward to it,” Matsuyama said.
“Up until now, we haven’t had a major champion in Japan, and maybe a lot of golfers or younger golfers, too, thought, well, maybe that’s an impossibility.
“But with me doing it, hopefully that will set an example for them that it is possible and that, if they set their mind to it, they can do it, too.”
Ultimately Matsuyama finished at 10-under 278 with tournament rookie Will Zalatoris second after a two-under 70.
Jordan Spieth (70) sealed his fifth top-five at Augusta with a share of third alongside Xander Schauffele (72) at seven under.
A charge from Marc Leishman never materialised with the Australian signing for a 73 to tie for fifth at six under with Jon Rahm, whose 66 was the best round of the final day.
Nerves at the beginning and end of his round almost brought Matsuyama undone but otherwise he looked every bit a champion.
His four-shot overnight buffer was slashed to just one after a nervous opening-hole bogey but he rebounded with a birdie at the second led by five after 13 holes.
Schauffele cut the lead to two shots with a birdie at the 15th, with his playing partner Matsuyama making bogey after drilling his approach shot long into a pond.
But just as quickly Schauffele’s hopes were sunk when his tee shot at the 16th found water and he made the first triple-bogey of his major championship career.
Zalatoris, 24, posted nine under but a two-shot buffer on the 18th tee was plenty for Matsuyama and his final hole bogey affected nothing but the final score.
“He’s a bit like a Tiger Woods is to the rest of the world, Hideki in Japan,” Australian Adam Scott said of his mate who now joins him in the exclusive Masters champions club.
“The crowds in Japan are fanatical.
“They love the game, and they love the superstars going over there.
“I remember I took the green jacket in ’13 when I went, and it was an incredible response I got, so I can only imagine what Hideki will experience.”
There was already speculation Matsuyama could be called on to light the Olympic flame in Tokyo later this year, a feat he said would be “quite an honour”.
He will spearhead Japan’s medal hopes in what will no doubt be astonishing scenes at the men’s golf competition.
Barcelona had a flaming arrow light their Olympic flame in 1992 so perhaps Matsuyama could hit a flaming golf ball.
Such is his precision swing – you can be sure he wouldn’t miss.