News & Opinion

Hideki Matsuyama’s caddie opens up about his Masters bow

Hideki Matsuyama and caddie Shota Hayafuji at 2021 Masters
Hideki Matsuyama’s caddie, Shota Hayafuji, explains his Masters bow to The Caddie Network, saying, 'my heart was full of gratitude.'

Shota Hayafuji tells Garrett Johnston for The Caddie Network that 'it was the natural thing ... to bow and show respect to the Masters'

This article originally appeared on The Caddie Network.

If you watched the Masters or have been on golf Twitter in the past week, then you’ve surely seen the wonderful image from Masters Sunday of Hideki Matsuyama’s caddie, Shota Hayafuji, respectfully grabbing the pin flag on 18, removing his hat and bowing to Augusta National.

The video on CBS Sports’ Twitter handle has 2.7 million views, and that’s just one of many platforms fans have chosen to digest that poignant piece of golf history.

So, after the biggest loop of his life around the world’s greatest course, what was Hayafuji feeling and thinking as he took his bow to the course?

“My heart was full of gratitude, and it was the natural thing for me to bow and show respect to the Masters,” Hayafuji said in an email this week through interpreter Bob Turner. “I was saying, Thank you very much!

Golf fans could almost feel Hayafuji saying that as he purposefully put the pin back into the hole and took his signature green Masters hat off for a bow to Augusta National.

Minutes later, he would be walking off of 18 and hugging members of the Matsuyama team. After a long week for them and undoubtedly a monumental week for Japan, Hayafuji said his favorite part of the week was embracing the team in those precious minutes in the immediate aftermath.

And after such a massive accomplishment, one has to wonder what the celebration was like for Matsuyama and Hayafuji on Sunday night. Apparently, there wasn’t much to it.

“We really didn’t celebrate, as we were all busy packing and getting ready to go back to Japan,” Hayafuji said. They flew from Atlanta to Chicago and then on to Japan.

But after winning the Masters, was there no thought to taking a private jet home to Japan instead of flying commercial? You know, kick back and celebrate a little?

“We were always planning to fly commercial all the way to Japan," Hayafuji said. "On the plane to Japan, a lot of people congratulated Hideki. It was amazing.”

If you’re a golf fan, you have at least an idea of how popular golf is in Japan, and one would figure that Matsuyama’s team would have received an almost Beatles-like reception upon landing with the country’s first green jacket.

But, during these COVID times, that was not the case.

“Because of the COVID restrictions, there wasn’t anyone at the Tokyo airport when we arrived, but I was glad to see the coverage of our homecoming on TV and Internet news,” Hayafuji said.

And the Matsuyama team’s Masters celebration continues to be put on hold as Hayafuji and Matsuyama are quarantining in their first couple of weeks home.

Hayafuji is in his third year caddying for Matsuyama. They have known each other since junior high school in Japan. Both attended the same high school and eventually went to Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai, as well.

As far as what his former classmate’s Masters victory means for Japan, Hayafuji simply called occasion “historic” for their country.

Of course, Tokyo will serve as host to the upcoming Olympics this summer as well in Tokyo, about a 10-hour drive from Matsuyama’s childhood home in Ehime, Japan, so that figures to be a big week for Team Matsuyama, as well.

Going back to the Masters win for a moment, Hayafuji looks back on the biggest challenges of caddying during Masters week as some of the things you might expect.

“It has to be the elevation changes, and the wind was really tough to figure during the week,” Hayafuji said of looping in his third Masters.

There were some elevation changes Matsuyama and Hayafuji dealt with on 15 on Sunday, when Matsuyama went long and into the water on his second shot, which led to a bogey at the par 5.

During perhaps the most critical juncture of Masters Sunday, how did Hayafuji calm his player down? Apparently there wasn’t much that happened in their conversations because Hayafuji says he didn’t even remember their exchange.

“I really don’t remember much of what was said,” Hayafuji said. “I just tried to do what I usually do and not say anything out of the ordinary.”

Matsuyama's victory was anything but ordinary. Now, player and caddie hope that they soon will be able to give this occasion the celebration it deserves.

Thanks to The Caddie Network, thecaddienetwork.com, for granting permission to reprint this story.

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