Will Zalatoris is likely in the final group of the Masters on Saturday. Who is he?

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Justin Pelletier
·3 min read
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Less than two years ago, former Wake Forest golfer Will Zalatoris was ranked outside the top 1,000 in the world, trying to make ends meet, and trying to live out his dream of playing professional golf.

Saturday, he’ll likely be in the final group during the third round of the 2021 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

Closing with three straight birdies and a blistering 5-under 31 on the back nine, Zalatoris forced his way into Saturday’s final group alongside leader Justin Rose with a second-round 68 to go with his opening 70 on Thursday.

Rose is at 7-under, Zalatoris is one back, tied with Brian Harman at 6-under. Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman and Hideki Matsuyama are at 5-under, two back.

But the story of the second round was Zalatoris, who finished the 2019 season 60th in regular season points despite starting the year with no official tour status. He finished 45th that year in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. Later in 2020, still with no official PGA Tour status, he won his first professional title on the Korn Ferry Tour, which qualified him for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot. He finished tied for sixth there and has posted four top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour since, leading to gaining late entry to the Masters with his top-50 world ranking. This is his first competitive start at Augusta National, and his third appearance in a major.

His round Friday was benign on the front, with a bogey on the ninth hole the only non-par of his outward nine.

But the magic started to happen on the back. Back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12 pushed him to 1-under for the day, setting up a rare birdie-birdie-birdie finish. He got that rolling by stuffing his tee shot on the par-3 16th and making a mid-range breaker. On 17, he had nearly the identical putt for another birdie.

“Seventeen, was a very similar putt, just about a half cup out left and hit a pretty good stroke again,” Zalatoris told the ESPN broadcast team after the round.

“I think I one-putted every green on the back,” he said. “A little of that, too, was putting myself in the right spots.”

On 18, Zalatoris ripped a drive down the middle of the fairway. And long.

“I caught that tee shot pretty good,” Zalatoris said. “I knew right when I hit it it was going to be a perfect number. Obviously great to give myself a chance to be in the final group.”

His approach landed just past the flag and spun back to about five feet, and he made that one, too, closing with a 31 on the back nine.

“I think just enjoy it,” Zalatoris said. “I’ve said a lot, it’s a lot of gratitude. You know, 17 months ago I didn’t have status anywhere, so obviously to be here, it’s a childhood dream, and to be hopefully in the final group on Saturday is pretty cool.”

Zalatoris, from Plano, Texas, also had a successful amateur career, winning the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2014 and playing on the 2017 U.S. Walker Cup team.