• AFP-JIJI

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Japanese fans celebrated Hideki Matsuyama’s historic Masters victory on Monday, with broadcasters close to tears and the country’s prime minister hailing the win as a bright spot during the pandemic.

“Matsuyama Masters” trended on Twitter after the 29-year-old earned a place in history by becoming the first Japanese man to capture a major golf title.

In Japan, the one-stroke victory came early Monday morning, with some broadcasters carrying live footage of his final round 73, which saw him finish at 10-under par.

On TBS, broadcasters and commentators choked up as Matsuyama sank the final putt to claim the green jacket.

“Congratulations. Thank you,” a presenter said as two golf commentators next to him struggled to hold back tears.

TV networks ran breaking news flashes announcing the victory and several newspapers published special editions usually reserved only for major stories.

On Twitter, fans rushed to congratulate the country’s new sports hero.

“I can’t see through my tears,” one fan wrote.

Even Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga weighed in, telling reporters the performance had been “really wonderful.”

“I think it encouraged and excited people across Japan at a time when the impact from coronavirus is lingering,” Suga said.

“It is a great achievement.”

Public broadcaster NHK carried interviews with delighted residents of the golfer’s hometown — Matsuyama in Ehime Prefecture.

“It’s great news that will encourage everyone,” one middle-aged man said.

“I hope this brilliant achievement by such a young man will offer hope for everyone,” he added.

Matsuyama, who held off Americans Will Zalatoris, Xander Schauffele and Jordan Spieth to claim the $2.07 million winner’s prize, is only the second Asian man to win a golf major, following South Korea’s Yang Yong-eun, who won the 2009 PGA Championship.

Matsuyama, who is 25th in the world rankings, had not won since the 2017 WGC tournament in Akron, Ohio, but calmly sank clutch pars and recorded crucial birdies in a pressure-packed march to glory at Augusta National.

Japan’s two previous major golf titles were won by women — Hisako Higuchi at the 1977 LPGA Championship and Hinako Shibuno at the 2019 Women’s British Open.

The best previous major showings by men had been Isao Aoki’s runner-up finish at the 1980 U.S. Open and Matsuyama’s share of second at the 2017 U.S. Open.

In Matsuyama, one resident said the hometown hero’s win was some much-needed light relief.

“I’m so happy to hear it, as we haven’t had much good news lately,” the young woman told NHK.

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