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Not since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 has a Masters rookie walked away with the green jacket at Augusta National. Only three players have ever done it. There’s a legitimate possibility it could happen again on Sunday as Will Zalatoris hovers near the top of the leaderboard.
Zalatoris, 24, played in Saturday’s final round alongside Justin Rose. He has displayed a good feel for the golf course (particularly the greens) and opened with rounds of 70-68. In the third round, Zalatoris struggled to get anything going, offsetting each birdie with a bogey.
Who is the tall, thin blonde who recently rose off the ranks of the Korn Ferry Tour? We give you the basics below.
Is this week really a surprise?
You heard it here first: Will Zalatoris is a top-15 player in the world. Period. Even as far back as January, when Zalatoris teed it up in the Farmers Insurance Open, he did so as the No. 13-ranked player in the Golfweek/Sagarin Professional Rankings. He was ranked No. 11 in the Sagarins heading into the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Many have noted his rise in the Official World Golf Ranking. Zalatoris started the year No. 53 in that ranking and now is ranked No. 45. The Sagarins gave an early window into what Zalatoris was capable of this week.
How did he get here?
Will Zalatoris putts on the 13th green during the third round of the 2021 Masters Tournament. (Photo: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports)
Zalatoris has yet to win on the PGA Tour, but his first Korn Ferry Tour win came in July 2020 at the TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes. Zalatoris is the leading points-getter on the 2020-21 Korn Ferry tour points list, having won $403,978 in 16 events. Because of his position at the top of that points list, Zalatoris qualified for the 2020 U.S. Open in September and finished T-6. He is a special temporary member of the PGA Tour, which allows him unlimited sponsor exemptions this season (otherwise capped at seven). The global pandemic eliminated a promotion to the PGA Tour this season – unless, of course, he wins three times on the Korn Ferry Tour (in other words, two more times) for an automatic promotion. The Masters is Zalatoris’ ninth start in 2021 on the PGA Tour.
Why does he look so familiar?
Not surprisingly, golf Twitter trotted out the memes as soon as Zalatoris became a factor at Augusta National. He has alternately been compared to Owen Wilson… https://twitter.com/Skratch/status/1364993611994181634?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1364993611994181634%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.golfdigest.com%2Fstory%2Fwill-zalatoris-owen-wilson-impression …and Happy Gilmore’s caddie at the Waterbury Open. https://twitter.com/MMcEwanGolf/status/1380614787386707970
What about junior golf?
One line on his resume looks similar to some notable Masters champions: Like Jordan Spieth and Tiger Woods (among others) before him, Zalatoris is a former U.S. Junior champion. Zalatoris claimed the title in 2016, when he defeated Davis Riley in the final match. He had first played that championship four years earlier, when he was just 12 years old.
And college golf?
Zalatoris played college golf for head coach Jerry Haas at Wake Forest, but turned professional halfway through his senior year in December 2015. By that time, he owned three individual titles and had been named the 2017 ACC Player of the Year. In the summer of 2017, Zalatoris was selected to the U.S. Walker Cup team, joining players like Cameron Champ, Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler and Maverick McNealy on that squad. The Americans defeated Great Britain and Ireland that year at Los Angeles Country Club.