Zalatoris' Masters debut ends with him a shot back

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Will Zalatoris tips his cap after putting on the 18th hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament on Sunday, April 11, 2021, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Maybe the first hint that Will Zalatoris had what it took came when he was 6, and Ken Venturi went over to him on a driving range to show him a grip that he hasn’t changed since. Or maybe it was at 11, when a pro named David Price said he could be great if he put in the work.

Or maybe it was Sunday, when the 24-year-old finished alone in second at the Masters.

Either way, the secret is out now. A skinny kid with mop-top blonde hair and an unflappable sense of California cool finished only one shot behind Hideki Matsuyama at Augusta National, his final round of 2-under 70 getting him to 9 under for the week and into the spotlight for as long as he wants.

“I’ve wanted to be in this position my entire life,” Zalatoris said. “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 at the Masters 24 times, which is probably no more than a slight understatement. First, while it is possible that he watched the 1997 final round when Tiger Woods won the first of his five green jackets, it should be noted that Zalatoris was about 8 months old when that happened. And he didn’t watch this year’s final round because, well, he was playing instead.

But let these numbers illustrate how much his life has changed, and how quickly it happened: In April 2019, he finished 61st in an event called the Dormie Network Classic and earned $1,408. In April 2021, he finished second at 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 said. “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 start the week, he isn’t anymore.