The old adage about the Masters not coming truly alive until the back nine on the Sunday proved true once again.
For a long while it looked like it was going to be a procession for Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama at Augusta National until he started making errors as the finishing line approached.
After finding the water on 15, he bogeyed three of the closing four holes, but he managed to hold on to claim the Green Jacket by a stroke.
I was willing him to win as you don’t want to see anyone blow such a big lead. It was a more nervy finish than should have been the case.
It could have been a very different outcome if Xander Schauffele had avoided taking a triple bogey six at the 16th.
It was more comfortable than a one-shot victory suggests, but Augusta is so unpredictable which is what makes it so fascinating.
There is so much scope for errors on that back nine, especially when players are chasing a first major.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) April 12, 2021
Hideki’s victory could be massive for golf, particularly in Japan. He is the first Japanese man to win a men’s major and the country has the perfect platform to build on that success with golf being part of the Olympics in Tokyo this summer.
I was surprised so many of the big names didn’t make it into contention and some such as world number one Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy didn’t even make it to the weekend.
They possibly put too much pressure on themselves.
Runner-up Will Zalatoris grasped his opportunity and looks a great prospect. He doesn’t have full status on the PGA Tour, but he is now a contender to make the American Ryder Cup team after finishing only a stroke behind Hideki.
He started 2020 ranked outside the top 600 in the world, but he has made the most of his playing opportunities and is now 27th.
Jon Rahm finished tied fifth, which was remarkable given he only turned up on Wednesday after the birth of his son and didn’t get time to properly prepare.
But the most pleasing aspect for Scottish golf fans was seeing Robert MacIntyre shine on his Augusta debut.
The left-hander from Oban took it all in his stride and holed a birdie at the last to finish tied 12th and earn an invite back to next year’s major.
I spoke to his manager Iain Stoddart on the Saturday and he said Robert was a bit disappointed, which I thought was brilliant because most golfers his age would have been delighted to have finished the third round inside the top 10. He carded more birdies than any other player in the field, which is brilliant for someone playing in the Masters for the first time.
He will return to Augusta next year with loads of confidence. The hardest thing with the Masters is to play the course, not the occasion.
He went out to America for six or seven weeks and it helped get him ready for Augusta. He looked comfortable and like he was playing in his 15th Masters rather than his first.
He is only going to get stronger, which is great for Scottish golf.
A huge loss to community and charity
I was very saddened by the death of Aberdeen FC Community Trust chairman Duncan Skinner last week.
I knew him pretty well and I used to go to the football with him a lot and played a few games of golf with him at Blairgowrie.
He was such a lovely, generous man who did so much for charity.
He was great to my foundation and I used to enjoy going up to watch Aberdeen-Celtic games with him at Pittodrie.
He was a great guy and I was upset when I heard the news. My thoughts are with his family.
Very sad to hear the news that Duncan Skinner passed away yesterday a proper gent who gave up so much of his time to the AFC Community Trust my thoughts and prayers are with his family 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/j9OtQC1Yt9
— Stephen Gallacher (@stevieggolf) April 9, 2021
Cycle accident puts brakes on competition
The European Tour returns with the Austrian Golf Open today, but I’m at home nursing an injury. I fell off my bike and cracked a bone in my right hand. It was a freak accident as I was going round a bend and my pedal hit the ground and flipped me right over.
I was lucky I had my helmet on.
I didn’t think it was too bad, just some heavy bruising, but I had an MRI scan last week and I have cracked a bone, so I’m wearing a splint for six weeks.
The British Masters in May looks like my next event if all goes well.