The future of golf is on the move.
This Sunday, the circuit broke with the traditional duel between Europe and the United States.
A new territory was invited to the world feast: Asia, thanks to the triumph of a 29-year-old Japanese youngster, Hideki Matsuyama, at the 85th edition of the Augusta Masters.
A victory that Tiger Woods, absent due to his car accident at the end of January, did not fail to salute: “You make Japan proud, Hideki.
Congratulations on this huge accomplishment for you and your country.
This historic Masters victory will have an impact on the world of golf as a whole.
For Japan, this success stirred up a wave of emotion and gave pride to an entire people.
As Nathalie Jeanson, the director of golf at Paris-Longchamp, who spent seven years on the Japanese professional circuit between 1983 and 1990, explains. "Since World War II, the Japanese have suffered from an inferiority complex," explains the one that regularly returns to the archipelago.
At each competition, the entire population is prepared to lose.
So when victory comes, it seems so surprising and unreal to them.
"One of the most popular sports behind sumo and baseball"
However, in Japan, golf is not the latest sport in fashion.
Quite the contrary.
The passion for golf is very old.
“When I was in Japan, golf was already one of the most popular sports behind sumo and baseball,” explains Nathalie Jeanson.
It all started with the victory of Torakichi Nakamura and Kochi Ono at the World Professional Team Championships in… 1957!
“Since then, the discipline has continued to develop.
When the Frenchwoman discovered Japan in the 1980s, the land of the rising sun had 20 million practitioners for 35,000 practices.
Like the Japanese tradition, golfers climbed the steps, one after the other.
“In Asia, China has probably more talented golfers than in Japan,” she said.
But the Japanese compensate with their work.
Matsuyama's victory in Augusta is the reward for this painstaking work.
In the 1980s, the Japanese were already saying they would have a champion even if it was to take a century.
It only took forty years in the end!
Golf: Japan celebrates Hideki Matsuyama like a hero
Since Sunday, Japan has not discovered a new champion.
For the past ten years, Hideki Matsuyama has been an idol in his country.
A true god.
“As he says himself, Matsuyama laid the foundation stone,” explains Jeanson.
Before him, there were other talented golfers like Isao Aoki or Masashi Ozaki.
On the other hand, he is one of the pioneers by winning this first victory in a Masters.
For Nathalie Jeanson, Matsuyama's modesty after her victory is above all something classic in her country.
“The Japanese harbor a feeling of inferiority vis-à-vis the Americans.
When I was there, I was just a Frenchwoman, they didn't fear me.
On the other hand, it was enough for an American to participate in the Japanese circuits, even if she was not a great competitor, they were very impressed.
It's like that there.
Asia ready to become a "stronghold" of golf
With the Tokyo Olympics, Nathalie Jeanson does not necessarily see golf taking an even more important place.
“It's quite astonishing if we compare with France.
At home, we would use the Games to develop the discipline.
Not in Japan.
This is also why they chose a route for the Games that is not the best known in the country.
With Sunday's victory, can Hideki Matsuyama become a world leader?
“I don't know, laughs Nathalie Jeanson.
It was said that Matsuyama used to crack in the last moments.
But that, once again, is linked to the Japanese mentality.
They don't think they can compete with the Americans.
The Japanese need to feed on defeats to achieve victory.
You will never see a Japanese come out of nowhere, emerge like that.
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The future of golf will no longer be written only between Europe and America.
“With South Korea and China, I am convinced that Asia will become a stronghold,” concludes Nathalie Jeanson.
On the other hand, the Japanese feel very much at home.
Their circuit attracts many golfers who do not dream of a career elsewhere.
For the Japanese, it is very difficult to attempt the adventure abroad.
They had a hard time adapting to another food, another language, another way of thinking.
That's why very few of them try their luck in the United States.
Does Matsuyama's success open new doors?
I hope so with all my heart.