Justin Rose forced into passenger seat as Hideki Matsuyama takes Masters by storm
‘I spent the hour just sitting in my car looking at my cell phone,’ replied Hideki Matsuyama when asked what he did during the enforced storm break on moving day at The Masters.
It was perhaps the last thing you expected a golfer within touching distance of his first Major to say when posed with the query.
But his unusual approach seemed to do the trick as the Japan star returned to the course recharged – no doubt, just like his mobile – and inspired by his unexpected screen time.
Prior to the 75-minute stop in play because of the threat of lightning over Augusta, the 29-year-old admitted his assault on the leaderboard hadn’t quite emerged as he would have liked.
Starting the day on four under – three behind long-time leader Justin Rose (-7) – a birdie on seven was the only notable entry on his card.
Yet that dramatically changed on his return to the fairways, with the world No 25 adopting magnificently to the brief new conditions to storm into a four-shot lead going into today’s final round.
Hampshire-raised Rose and those chasing the Englishman at the top of the rankings had been made aware of the potential for lightning strikes.
With the wind picking up, perhaps that warning should have included the whirlwind that was Matsuyama, who recorded four birdies and an eagle on the back nine to card a third-round 65.
To date, It’s the only bogey-free round recorded by the players at this year’s first Major of the season, with the five-time PGA Tour winner now sitting pretty at 11 under.
‘Before the horn blew (to alert players and patrons alike of the suspension of play), I didn't hit a very good drive,’ said the 2011 Masters Silver Cup winner.
‘But after the horn blew for the restart, I hit practically every shot exactly how I wanted to.
‘This will be a new experience for me, being a leader going into the final round in a Major.
‘I guess all I can do is just relax as I can, prepare well and just do my best.’
Rose, whose name had sat proudly at the top of the leaderboard since Thursday until Matsuyama’s takeover, now finds himself among the chasing pack going into today’s final round.
The 40-year-old remains at seven under – his total since his own 65 on Thursday – after carding a second successive 72.
And there he’s joined by Xander Schauffele (68), Marc Leishman (70) and Will Zalatoris (71) – all of whom are in a four-way battle to stay in touch of the new leader.
Canadian Corey Conners (68) is a shot further back on six-under, with 2015 winner Jordan Spieth (72) on minus five.
Unlike Matsuyama, Rose admitted he struggled after the restart, with his birdie on 12 cancelled out by a four on the par-three 16th.
Prior to that, birdies at holes one and two were negated by bogeys at the fourth and fifth.
‘It was a tricky round and a lot happened,’ said Rose.
‘Obviously, teeing off it was relatively normal I would say and then obviously once that little band of storm was approaching, wind really picked up and sort of (holes) six and seven became pretty tricky for that 30 minutes before the horn went, and then after that it was a very different feel.
‘There was sort of like 30 or 40 minutes where it was pretty calm, wasn't any rain, course softened up, and there was an opportunity, I think, obviously as Hideki proved, to make some birdies.
‘You had to make an adjustment. The greens slowed up a good foot, so everything changed a little bit.
‘I actually didn't putt it great for three or four holes, but then finally got my eye back in and got in touch with the speed again and putted great coming in luckily, because I had struggled a little bit.
‘But there were a couple other interesting things.
‘I got a couple fliers from the fairway, just that little bit of moisture on the ground, and the edges of the greens became really greasy, meaning that they're so sticky normally but with a little bit of moisture on them the ball was really skidding through.’
Despite now playing catch-up, two-time Masters runner-up Rose said it would be wrong for Matsuyama to have an early fitting for a green jacket.
He added: ‘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.
‘You know, all the guys chasing at seven-under par are all capable of that little run that Hideki has had, so it's all up for grabs.’
Rose partners Aussie Leishman today in the penultimate group, with both teeing off at 7.20pm (BST).
Matsuyama, in the company of Xander Schauffele, gets under way at 7.40pm (BST).