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Column: Matsuyama goes from inspiration to Masters champion

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The idea was to create golfing heroes, not necessarily a Masters champion.

Hideki Matsuyama is now both.

“I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the members of Augusta National,” Matsuyama said on the night before he became Japan's first Masters champion. “Because I wouldn't be here today without them.”

The seed was planted in February 2009, when Tiger Woods was a major champion for the fourth straight year and players from all but one continent where golf is played were represented among the top 15 in the world ranking. The exception was Asia.

Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National at the time, flew to Hong Kong with then-R&A chief Peter Dawson to announce a new tournament — the Asia-Pacific Amateur — for amateurs across a

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Tiger Woods Augusta National Billy Payne Peter Dawson

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