The Masters: Hideki Matsuyama in pole position to land first major

Hideki Matsuyama

AS IT STANDS -11 Matsuyama; -7 Schauffele, Leishman, Rose, Zalatoris; -6 Conners; -5 Spieth; -4 Harman; -3 Finau; -2 MacIntyre, Kim, Wiesberger.

A week after his compatriot Tsubasa Kajitani won the Augusta National Women's Amateur, Japan's Hideki Mastsuyama has put himself in pole position to make The Masters his maiden major victory.

The 29-year-old, who finished low amateur on his Masters debut exactly a decade ago, will take a four-shot lead into the final round of the first men's major of the year after a sublime, bogey-free 65 on Saturday.

The world No.25's back nine was particularly impressive. He covered it in just 30 blows to overhaul long-time leader Justin Rose and give himself a commanding lead with 18 holes to play.

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Should Matsuyama seal the victory, he would become the first Japanese male to win a major championship. He would also be the first Asian male - and second overall - to claim one of golf's four biggest titles since Y.E. Yang won the 2009 US PGA Championship. 

Not just that, it would end Maysuyama's own personal victory drought which stretches back to the 2017 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.

"This year's been a struggle," he admitted. "I haven't really played my best. The last three years, you know, there's been different probably reasons why I haven't been able to win. 

But this year, starting early in the year, I have a coach with me now from Japan. It's been a great help, a great benefit. Things that I was feeling in my swing, I could talk to him about that, and he always gives me good feedback. He has a good eye. 

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"It's like having a mirror for my swing, and it's been a great help for me. We work hard, and hopefully now it's all starting to come together."

Matsuyama has a sneakily good Masters record. He has missed the cut only once in nine previous appearances, with a best finish of fifth in 2015. His best major finish, meantime, is a tie for second in the 2017 US Open, one of seven top-10s he has posted in 32 major starts appearances to date. 

Some might say he's paid his dues - and now he's due.

"I have a lot of great memories watching the Masters as a young boy," he added. "The first time I watched, Tiger Woods was the winner. Another great memory is when he chipped in at 16 down the hill, that putt just going in. I was always dreaming some day I could play here. I love playing here."

The feeling, it would seem, is mutual.

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Hoping to ruin Matsuyama's Sunday is Justin Rose. The Englishman has been playing with the lead since opening with a 65 on Thursday. However, he's not concerned about finding himself in the role of hunter rather than hunted as the final round approaches.

"I've been playing with the lead the whole week, and obviously there's been an hour of golf where Hideki has sort of moved out there in front," said the 2013 US Open champion. "All the guys chasing at seven-under-par are capable of that little run that Hideki has had, so it's all up for grabs tomorrow."

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