AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Maybe the primary trace that Will Zalatoris had what it took got here when he was 6, and Ken Venturi went over to him on a driving vary to point out him a grip that he hasn’t modified since. Or possibly it was at 11, when a professional named David Price mentioned he might be nice if he put within the work.
Or possibly it was Sunday, when the 24-year-old completed alone in second on the Masters.
Either manner, the key is out now. A thin child with mop-top blonde hair and an unflappable sense of California cool completed just one shot behind Hideki Matsuyama at Augusta National, his closing spherical of 2-under 70 getting him to 9 below for the week and into the highlight for so long as he needs.
“I’ve wanted to be in this position my entire life,” Zalatoris mentioned. “I don’t need to shy away from it now. I’ve made it this far. Why now be timid? I thought I did a really good job of enjoying the moment but not letting it get to me, too.”
Zalatoris says he’s watched Sunday on the Masters 24 occasions, which might be not more than a slight understatement. First, whereas it’s doable that he watched the 1997 closing spherical when Tiger Woods gained the primary of his 5 inexperienced jackets, it ought to be famous that Zalatoris was about 8 months previous when that occurred. And he didn’t watch this 12 months’s closing spherical as a result of, properly, he was enjoying as a substitute.
But let these numbers illustrate how a lot his life has modified, and the way rapidly it occurred: In April 2019, he completed 61st in an occasion known as the Dormie Network Classic and earned $1,408. In April 2021, he completed second on the Masters and earned $1,242,000.
“I just took as many mental images in my mind, because I’ve watched this tournament for as long as I can remember,” Zalatoris mentioned. “And the fact that I was a part of it is pretty special, and the fact that I contended is even cooler.”
If he was an unknown to begin the week, he isn’t anymore.
His first made putt of the week obtained a few well mannered claps from about two dozen patrons behind the primary inexperienced, most of whom frankly have been most likely there to see certainly one of his enjoying companions on Thursday — two-time Masters champion Bernhard Langer. His final putt of the week got here with 1000’s of patrons surrounding the 18th inexperienced, regaling him with a standing ovation and a roar.
“I’ve watched him a bit on television the last few months or year or so, and already thought he was special on TV,” Langer mentioned Thursday after that opening spherical. “And then I experienced him in person today, and I would definitely agree. He’s going to be one of the stars for the future, I think. Certainly has the capability. You look at him, he’s fairly skinny, but man, does he hit the golf ball.”
This was no fluke, both.
Zalatoris — who, if nothing else, secured his invitation back to the 2022 Masters this week — was within the hunt each step of the way in which.
Matsuyama shot a 3-under 69 on Thursday; Zalatoris shot a 70. He really was two pictures higher than the eventual Masters champion by 36 holes, after a 68 on Friday. Matsyuama actually gained the match on Saturday, capturing a 65 that put him in full management and left him 4 pictures away from his nearest challengers, Zalatoris included.
Thing is, the child by no means went away. He opened birdie-birdie on Sunday and obtained inside one of many lead, and completed in that very same spot, one shot away.
“It hasn’t sunk in,” Zalatoris mentioned. “I think, if anything, it’s just the fact that I’m one shot short. It’s just kind of sitting right in front of me, thinking through where I could have found that one or two shots, really. That’s just golf every single week. You always think about those one or two.”
“But like I said, the fact I put myself in contention and was able to handle it and be in the final group in my third major in my entire career is obviously really exciting.”
There is that component as properly: He’s proven a propensity to come back up huge within the huge moments. This is already his second top-six at a main, after he tied for sixth on the U.S. Open final 12 months, 11 pictures back of runaway winner Bryson DeChambeau however ending with the identical 72-hole rating as world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
“I can play with the best players in the world,” Zalatoris mentioned.
Nobody at Augusta National this week would argue.
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