2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama
PLAYERS & TEAM EARNINGS

Could Hideki Matsuyama’s Masters Victory Be Worth a Billion?

The new Masters champion’s trailblazing win could open the door to truly massive endorsement deals over his lifetime.

When Hideki Matsuyama tapped in to seal a one-stroke victory Sunday at the Masters, he earned himself the coveted green jacket and a $2.07 million purse. But for the Japanese star, the victory figures to be worth exponentially more in the years to come.

There is no country in the world with a greater density of golf courses based on land area, so it’s safe to say much of Japan laid awake through the night watching as Matsuyama inched toward becoming their first native son ever to win a major. And what that enthusiasm means for his earning potential should not be underestimated.

Before the final round of the tournament, ESPN golf analyst Andy North said Matsuyama’s victory could be worth as much as $1 billion thanks to Japan’s incredible love for the sport.

North’s estimate is dramatic and he didn’t exactly show his work, but Japan’s newest national hero doesn’t have to become a full-fledged billionaire to make history as an athlete earner.

Matsuyama is still young, so I have even greater hopes for him in the future,” said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. “With the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, he’s given courage and inspiration to all Japanese people.”

That’s a pretty serious vote of confidence for a 29-year-old.

Sumitomo Rubber, owner of Srixon, Cleveland Golf, and a number of other golf accessory and equipment companies, came away a massive winner as a principal Matsuyama sponsor. Lexus, which is owned by Toyota, owns real estate across Matsuyama’s polo shirt and hat, sharing space with Nomura, a Japanese bank.

That’s a solid foundation, but all this newfound fame promises to open the endorsement deal floodgates. Consider tennis pro Kei Nishikori as a case study.

Nishikori, despite making just one grand slam final in his career, boasts sponsorship deals with brands like Asahi, Japan Airlines, Lixil, Procter & Gamble, Nissin, and NTT, per Forbes, who ranked him as the No. 40 highest-earning athlete in the world in 2020.

By comparison, consider what Matsuyama’s economic impact could be as a bona fide champion who’s just getting started.

And don’t forget that the upcoming Summer Olympics are in Tokyo.

Andy North’s $1 billion estimate is completely untested and largely unvetted as of now, but a super-lofty number is not unfathomable. The most popular athlete in a highly popular sport in Japan becoming the first countryman to win the world’s most iconic tournament is an unprecedented achievement.

It could very well come with unprecedented money to match.

Even before his Masters performance, Matsuyama has been the center of attention for the Japanese sports world for some time now, often followed by a slew of Japanese reporters documenting his every move. With success comes even greater notoriety and for Matsuyama, his historic victory at Augusta will only draw more attention.

And the real estate that Sumitomo Rubber, Toyota, and Nomura own on Matsuyama’s clothing just got a whole lot more expensive.

We may learn quite quickly that North’s billion-dollar estimate was far off the mark, but his larger point still stands: Golf hasn’t seen an individual electrify such a massive market of fans with one big win since Tiger Woods in 1997. On Sunday evening, Hideki Matsuayama officially became a brand.