AUGUSTA, Ga. – Xander Schauffele will play alongside Hideki Matsuyama for the second straight day on Sunday, this time in the final pairing of the Masters.
Schauffele's grandparents lived in Japan, so he will again converse in Japanese with Matsuyama.
Both will try to win their first major championship. A victory for Matsuyama would make him the first man from Japan to win a major golf championship. For Schauffelle, a victory would simply bring him his first major in a career that has featured everything but that achievement.
Matsuyama couldn't have asked for a better playing partner. Schauffele is genial and composed, and doesn't mind rooting for a fellow competitor.
"It's nice,'' Schauffele said. "It's moving day. It's Saturday. You want to play with someone who's going to shoot 7 under. You hope that it's yourself, and if not, you chase. You'd rather play with someone that's shooting 65 than shooting 74.
"It was nice to chase after him. He's an incredible iron player. This is a great course for him. I think he has a great record out here at Augusta National, and obviously he showed it this afternoon.''
Matsuyama shot a 65 to take a four-shot lead over Schauffele, Marc Leishman, Justin Rose and Will Zalatoris. Schauffele finished in a tie for second at the Masters in 2019, behind Tiger Woods, and has finished in the top 10 at a major seven times since 2017.
"It's all part of the process,'' Schauffele said. "I'm a huge fan of putting myself in position with nine holes to go and learning from each and every mistake and also the things I did well in those moments. So looking forward to tomorrow.''
They'll tee off at 1:40 p.m. Central on a course that has played different every day this week. On Thursday the greens were purplish and tricky. On Friday, because of cloud cover, they turned more green. On Saturday, the course was playing windy and fast until a midafternoon rain delay, after which the greens became sticky and players had trouble putting the ball all the way to the hole.
The rain may have helped Matsuyama and Schauffele eagle the 15th hole, as they were able to stop their approach shots on the green.
Schauffele made a long eagle putt to briefly tie Matsuyama at 7 under. Then Matsuyama made his eagle putt to get to 9 under and take the tournament lead.
"That's why this tournament is great,'' Schauffele said. "I think that's why it's a viewing pleasure for most. I was not aware. I was happy to make my 60-foot eagle putt on 15. I knew Hideki was going to make his. I was just trying to stay in touch.''
With a 68, he earned his way into the last pairing, and another day of trying to stay in touch with Matsuyama.