AUGUSTA, Ga. — He has seemingly come out of nowhere. The reality, although, is Will Zalatoris has all the time been there. He simply took a extra nameless route.
Zalatoris, 24, did not win the Masters on Sunday, however he made it fascinating for a time. That he gave himself an opportunity in his rookie look at Augusta Nationwide is revelatory, however solely in case you are not conscious of his sturdy backstory and up to date surge of success over the previous 12 months.
“I am not very shocked; I do know a few of y’all are,” mentioned Scottie Scheffler, who has been enjoying golf with Zalatoris since their junior days. “I have been saying for years … we have been enjoying towards one another since we have been 8 years outdated. He is top-of-the-line ball strikers I’ve ever seen. Any week by which he can simply get a number of putts to fall, you are going to see him up there on the leaderboard.”
Zalatoris shot 2-under-par 70 on Sunday, with solely a quick early back-nine blip holding him from placing extra strain on Hideki Matsuyama, who turned the primary Japanese man to win a significant championship. Zalatoris, with birdies on two of his final 4 holes, completed only a stroke again to guarantee himself a spot within the 2022 Masters and additional bolster his ascension within the Official World Golf Rating.
The previous Wake Forest participant is doing all this regardless of not being a full-time member of the PGA Tour. He earned his approach into the U.S. Open in September based mostly on his standing on the Korn Ferry Tour — the PGA Tour’s developmental tour — the place he had posted 11 consecutive top-20 finishes. He made good on the U.S. Open look, ending tied for sixth at Winged Foot. He hasn’t seemed again.
“Absolute dream,” Zalatoris mentioned after taking pictures scores of 70-68-71-70. “To be in a state of affairs … I have been dreaming about it for 20 years. I assumed I did a extremely good job this week of simply having fun with the second, however not letting it get to me.
“I feel I sort of let every part soak in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday after which again to work on Thursday. So it was an absolute deal with, and clearly to come back up one quick and be upset is motivating however clearly very thrilling.”
Two years in the past, Zalatoris was ranked 1,514th on the earth. When the 2020-21 PGA Tour season started in September, he had no standing. He had been enjoying within the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020, however because of the coronavirus pandemic, there was no qualifying event final fall.
However he had that U.S. Open exemption. And that end at Winged Foot meant every part. It led to extra begins, principally through sponsor exemptions. And coming into the Masters, he had already earned particular momentary standing for this season, which means he may settle for limitless invitations. Previous to the Masters, he had earned 647 factors, which might put him thirty second on the FedEx Cup factors checklist.
“I wished to be on this stage mainly my whole life,” he mentioned.
In two main championship begins as a professional, Zalatoris now has a tie for sixth and a second. He’s twenty seventh on the earth.
“It is nice to see,” mentioned Webb Simpson, who, like Zalatoris, is a Wake Forest grad. “He is been enjoying phenomenal golf. I feel it is a testomony for lots of men who do not have standing simply to see that it may be carried out with six months of actually good play. I’ve heard he is been an amazing participant for a very long time. Not an enormous shock to me.”
In fact, first-timers aren’t supposed to do that. Fuzzy Zoeller is the one participant to win the event — except for the primary two years in 1934 and 1935 — in his first try.
Zoeller did so in 1979, getting right into a playoff when Ed Snead bogeyed the ultimate three holes. Zoeller birdied the second further gap to win over Snead and Tom Watson.
No one has pulled off that feat in 42 years. Spieth got here shut in 2014, ending second earlier than successful the following 12 months. And others have flirted with the highest spot as a rookie, solely to come back up quick.
“I’ve performed a variety of golf with him over the past 12 months, 12 months and a half,” mentioned Spieth, the 2015 Masters winner who tied for third this 12 months. “Having seen him progress and his confidence stage simply proceed to progress over the past 12 months and a half, I am not shocked. It is extremely troublesome this weekend to come back out within the place he was in within the remaining group on Saturday. It is only a completely different feeling.
“Then, on this wind, to manage his excessive ball flight and to make putts on these greens when you do not see different greens like this, particularly in windy situations, I assumed it is extraordinarily spectacular.”
There’s a lot to love about Zalatoris. Regardless of his slight body — he’s listed at 6-foot-2, 165 kilos — he seemingly hits the ball endlessly. And he is received an exemplary iron sport; he was second to Spieth for the week in greens in regulation with 53 out of 72.
And he loved each step.
“It was a fairly cool,” he mentioned. “In case you take a look at the cameras each single day after I cross the bridge on 12, I look again, as a result of my dad advised me, ‘Look again and revel in it as a result of it is a view that you do not actually get.’ The truth that you are doing this within the Masters, that is your level to replicate on how cool it’s to be right here.”