At the Masters, Zalatoris shows he can ‘play with the best in the world’

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Bob Spear
·5 min read
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Will Zalatoris arrived at Augusta National Golf Club to compete in his first Masters mostly unknown. He departed Sunday with $1.242 million in his bank account and, more important, bursting with confidence.

“I learned I could play with the best in the world,” he said.

Although a provisional member of the PGA Tour, he had played his way to 46th in the world rankings, and that number will improve after his second-place finish in the year’s first men’s major championship.

The outlier among the four players who started the final round behind eventual champion Hideki Matsuyama, the former Wake Forest University golfer showed he could compete on the big stage with birdies on the first two holes.

He fell back, then added late birdies at 15 and 17 showed his mettle. He finished with a final 71 for 9-under-par 279 — one stroke behind.

He has not won on the PGA Tour, but he is leading the 2020-21 Korn Ferry points list. He served notice that more days like Sunday could follow.

“I’ve played a lot of golf with (Zalatoris) over the last year, year and a half,” said Jordan Spieth, who competed against Zalatoris in junior golf in Dallas. “Having seen him progress and his confidence level just continue to progress, I’m not surprised. ... (His play) is extremely impressive.”

Masters winner will take home more than $2 million

For the third consecutive year, the Masters champion will take home $2.07 million.

The Masters released the breakdown of how the $11.5 million purse will be distributed this year, and Matsuyama’s first prize this year matches what Tiger Woods received for his win in 2019 and what Dustin Johnson got last year.

Zalatoris’ second-place winnings of $1.242 million is the biggest prize in Masters history going to a non-winner. Runner-ups Sungjae Im and Cameron Smith got $1.012 million apiece last year; the Masters record for runner-ups is $1,188,000, won by Rickie Fowler in 2018 and Justin Rose in 2017.

Third prize, if claimed outright, would be worth $782,000; fourth, $552,000 and fifth, $460,000. For the record, 50th place is still a nice check: $28,980.

The Associated Press

No. 5 Magnolia again proves tough test at Masters

Each hole on the Augusta National Golf Club has been given a plant-based name. No. 5 badly needs a new identity.

The 495-yard par-4 brute is called “Magnolia.” To call it “Cactus” would be more appropriate, and results from the 85th Masters provides the evidence.

The pros tested No. 5 a total of 283 times in the four rounds and recorded a total of seven birdies. And those rarities probably came like Ian Poulter’s Sunday — driver off the tee, fairway wood to the green and sinking a putt in the 50-foot range.

The fifth played the hardest in the middle rounds and the second toughest on Thursday and Sunday. Overall, the field posted the seven birdies, 163 pars, 12 double-bogeys and a couple dreaded “others.”

Bottom line: 122 over par and a stroke average of 4.431, the tournament’s toughest over four days.

On the ever-evolving golf course, the fifth has continually grown in recent upgrades. Officials extended fairway bunkers 80 yards toward the green and shifted both the fairway and bunkers to the right to increase the dogleg in 2003.

After securing more property, club leadership moved the Masters’ tee back 40 yards to its present length.

Of course, there is a way to solve No. 5, which Jack Nicklaus illustrated in the 1995 Masters. In the first round, his 5-iron second shot from 180 yards found the cup for an eagle. A fluke? He did in again in the third round, this time with a 7 iron from 163 yards.

Maybe his eagles prompted club officials to put more muscle into No. 5.

— Bob Spear, for The State

Augusta set up for roars

The course setup for the final round suggested that the adage that the Masters does not really start until the back nine on Sunday would be proven true again.

The pin placements on the par-5 holes hinted that birdies would be plentiful and eagles possible. All four — 2, 8, 13 and 15 — looked inviting and initial statistics showed the pros could feast on them.

By the time the leaders teed off, the 575-yard second had surrendered 22 birdies. The 510-yard 13th looked especially vulnerable, and the water looked out of play on the 530-yard 15th.

— Bob Spear, for The State

Beware of World Golf Rankings

Predicting the order of finish based on world rankings did not turn out to be a good idea this week. Of the top 10 players in the survey, only No. 6 Xander Schauffele figured in the championship conversation at the start Sunday.

Defending champion Dustin Johnson (No. 1) and Patrick Cantlay (10) missed the 36-hole cut. Justin Thomas (No. 2) shot himself out of contention in the third round and Bryson DeChambeau (No. 5) scored better than only a handful of players.

Jon Rahm (No. 3) opened with three consecutive 72s before getting on the leaderboard with a fast start Sunday and climbed as high as fourth. Patrick Reed (No. 7) got on the fringe of the top 10. The others — Collin Morikawa (No. 4), Tyrrell Hatton (No. 8) and Webb Simpson (No. 9) — head for top 20s.

— Bob Spear, for The State

Changes for Masters champion?

Among the top five players entering the final round, only Justin Rose (U.S. Open) had won a major championship. What would a Masters title mean for one of the others?

“I don’t know if it will change your life, but it will change your career,” said two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal. “We have to differentiate those two areas.

“I think life, it depends on the player. If the player can stay the same way after winning the Masters, but no question that your career is determined by the number of majors you win. In that case scenario, whenever you win your major event, it’s a great relief and puts you in a different level.”

Olazabal, who won the 1994 and ’99 Masters, made this year’s cut at age 55 and finished an 8-over-par 296.

— Bob Spear, for The State