Hideki Matsuyama’s Masters triumph: A most unlikely blood sport

The Japanese star completed victory in the 2021 Masters and he did it with a secret advantage on his side.

That Hideki Matsuyama is now his nation's first Major Champion in the men's game will have thrilled his fans, but the fact that he's a brilliant golfer has never been a shock to them.

Had he been born British we might have said it was written in the stars.

But he is, of course, Japanese so it's slightly different: it was revealed in his blood group.

Yes, you did read that right.

Matsuyama is blood type B and, to some extent at least, that, as much as the fact that he's sensational with an iron in his hands, explains why he's ended the 2021 Masters in a Green Jacket.

The 29-year-old had a few wobbles, but ultimately he completed victory at Augusta National and it had nothing to do with him having ice in his veins.

A strange tale

Venture to the Japan Tour website and you'll discover that, among the usual details such as date of birth and nationality, the blood group of every player is listed.

An odd inclusion, you'd think, and one I mused about for a long time until one day discovering there is a popular Japanese notion that blood type indicates personality (much as some have faith in astrology).

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Unlike horoscopes, the history of this belief is relatively modern and was fuelled by Masahiko Nomi whose best-selling books were decried by critics suspicious of his lack of medical qualifications - not that it stopped him establishing the Institute of Blood Type Humanics or his ideas gaining great popularity.

Work places, schools, universities, even the government - they all make decisions based on the notion, and there is even talk of discrimination against those with the "wrong" blood group (bura-hara).


Inevitably, perhaps, the ideas have seeped into sport.

The 2008 Olympic team had customised blood type training and the New York Times reported that top Japanese baseball players are frequently type O.

So what about golf?

I emailed a Japanese friend about it and got the reply: "Blood type B is perfect for golf. We know that."

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At the 2014 Ricoh Women's British Open, Ayako Uehara led after 18 holes and I approached the Japanese media.

"Hello," I said. "I was just wondering - what blood group is Ayako?"

The reaction was remarkable.

Just one of the five journalists spoke English and her eyes popped wide open. She turned to her colleagues and they all bent inwards to listen as she relayed my message. As one they all looked up, eyes as saucer-like as their interpreter.

"You know about this?" she asked.

I nodded and immediately all five descended into fits of giggles, half excited that I knew, half appalled and embarrassed.

"Is our secret," the interpreter said and I took the hint. For the rest of the week they giggled and blushed every time I caught their eye.


What of Japan's leading performers then?

How about Tommy Nakajima, probably the best-known Japanese golfer in the 1970s and 80s. He's O - not a great start.

But Isao Aoki? Winner on the PGA Tour and also in World Matchplay Championship at Wentworth. B.

The Ozaki brothers: Jumbo, Joe and Jet - all B.

Shigyeki Maruyama and Shingo Katayama? Two more Bs.

What about the Bashful Prince - Ryo Ishikawa? O.

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But Matsuyama? Yes, Japan's first male Major winner is yet another B.

That's seven of the nine best Japanese male golfers that are blood group B (78%).

Fair enough yet what if it is also the most common group? But it's not - it actually accounts for only 20% of the population.

Blood group B is said to be perfect for golfers because it promotes steeliness, self-reliance and a goal-orientated mind.

So that explains it: it's no wonder Matsuyama never suffered from blood pressure.

READ MORE: Top six chasing Masters glory: Who will be wearing a Green Jacket after Sunday's final round?

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