- Associated Press - Sunday, April 10, 2011

AUGUSTA, GA. (AP) - Hideki Matsuyama hoped his play at the Masters would bring some joy to earthquake victims in Japan.

Now he’s going to bring them some help.

The 19-year-old amateur will return Monday to Sendai and join relief efforts in the city that took the brunt of the March 11 earthquake and the tsunami that followed. Matsuyama is a student at Sendai’s Tohoku Fukushi University.

“I think that it will be kind of a refreshing experience for me just away from golf and just to do something different,” Matsuyama said through an interpreter.

Matsuyama earned his spot at the Masters by winning the Asian Amateur last October. He was practicing in Australia when the quake hit and, after seeing the devastation in his city, debated whether he should even come to the Masters. But he decided playing well here was the best way he could help.

He was the only amateur to make the cut, and his 68 Saturday was the lowest by an amateur since James Driscoll’s in the first round in 2001. Matsuyama shot a 74 on Sunday, but a birdie on 18 put him at 1-under for the tournament. His 287 was the lowest score by an amateur since Ryan Moore finished with the same total in 2005.

“There are some hard times right now in Japan, and hopefully my play was able to bring some encouragement to those who are in need right now,” he said.

Being at Augusta National was a welcome diversion for the teenager, and he’ll carry the memories with him when he returns to the destruction and devastation in Sendai.

“There are so many great impressions, great memories from this tournament,” Matsuyama said. “But as I came up the hill on the 18th hole and I heard the applause from the gallery, that just give me chills.”

Meanwhile, Ryo Ishikawa will be donating his winnings Sunday _ $93,200 _ to relief efforts after tying for 20th. The Japanese star announced last week that he is donating all of his 2011 earnings on the golf course to quake victims.

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STRICKER’S SCHEDULE: Golf fans will be seeing a little less of Steve Stricker this summer.

Stricker said Sunday he plans to reduce his schedule, playing only 16 or 17 tournaments. The 44-year-old has two daughters, 12 and 4, and wants to be able to spend more time with them.

“It’s just time to stay home a little bit more,” said Stricker, who still lives year-round in Madison, Wis.

This is not a step toward the Champions Tour, however.

Stricker won twice last year, and has three top-10 finishes already this year. He tied for fourth last week in Houston. He made seven birdies Sunday on his way to a 2-under 70, and finished the Masters tied for 11th at 5 under.

“If you looked at my last five wins, they were all coming off a week off or two weeks off,” Stricker said. “So that kind of told me something, too, that it’s not bad for me to come back and feel rested. And I work at it a lot at home, too. That’s the goal, to stay home a little bit more and then be prepared and ready to play fewer tournaments than I’ve been playing.”

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NO REPEAT: Phil Mickelson won’t be rolling through the Krispy Kreme drive-thru in his green jacket anytime soon.

Lefty could never get his putter going, costing the defending champ any chance he had of winning a fourth Masters title. His 74 on Sunday was his worst round of the week, and he finished the tournament tied for 27th at 1 under.

“I struggled with the blade again today and it was a frustrating week, really, putting,” Mickelson said. “I love these greens. I usually putt them very well, but I struggled this week.”

Mickelson plans to take the next three weeks off before playing Charlotte and The Players Championship.

“I’m excited about playing golf and finishing the year right,” he said. “I feel like my game has been coming around, and I’m looking forward to getting back out and competing.”

___

AUSSIE, AUSSIE, AUSSIE: The Aussies brought their own army to the Masters.

With Jason Day and Adam Scott playing together and in contention until the very end, their gallery Sunday was filled with giddy fellow Australians. One group of men wore suits that looked like Australia’s Southern Cross flag, while three others sported shirts from Essendon, an Australian Rules football team.

John Duncan and 11 of his friends roamed Augusta National in matching bright orange shirts with “US Masters Tour 2011” patches on the left sleeve.

“We were surprised to have three people on the leaderboard after the third day,” said Duncan, who is from Newcastle, in New South Wales. “It’s really good. The only problem is Geoff Ogilvy is two groups in front.”

No Aussie has ever won the Masters, but the tournament has special significance to Australians because of Greg Norman’s heartbreaks here.

“We can win the other majors, but we can’t win at the Masters for whatever reason,” Duncan said.

And the drought will extend for another year. Scott and Day finished two strokes behind Charl Schwartzel at 12 under, while Ogilvy was at 10 under.

“It’ll happen someday,” Duncan said. “And when it does, he’ll never have to work another day.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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