Who Is Will Zalatoris? Masters Rookie Makes Noise in Round 1

By Nick Heidelberger

Will Zalatoris plays his first Masters round

Ranked 59th in the Official World Golf Rankings at the end of 2020, Will Zalatoris was left with just two paths to earn an invitation to the 2021 Masters: either win a PGA Tour event, or climb into the top 50 in the world the week prior to the Masters. Despite the daunting deed, Zalatoris would not be denied.

Six top-25 finishes in his eight starts in 2021 boosted Zalatoris into the world top 50 by the March 29 cutoff, albeit by an uncomfortable margin.

Now, through 18 holes at Augusta National Golf Club, Zalatoris is showing he’s not satisfied with just being invited to the Masters. A 2-under par round of 70, fueled by two birdies and an eagle on the second nine, has Zalatoris squarely in contention in a tie for fourth.

Who Is Will Zalatoris?

Zalatoris turned professional in 2018 after his collegiate career at Wake Forest. He made 11 of 15 cuts and had three top-10 finishes in his first season on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2019 before dominating the Tour in 2020. He finished first in points with one win, three top-3s and 10 top 10s on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020 to secure special temporary membership on the PGA Tour in 2021. His Korn Ferry Tour win came at the TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes where he shot three rounds in the 60s and finished 15-under par.

Will Zalatoris Shoots 59

Zalatoris had a stellar amateur career before turning professional. He won the Texas Amateur, Trans-Miss, and U.S. Junior Amateur in the same year before embarking on his collegiate career at Wake Forest, where he set the school record with a career scoring average of 70.44. While at Wake Forest, Zalatoris was a first-team All-America selection and ACC Player of the Year in 2017. One of his top achievements came when he holed an eagle putt on the 18th hole at The Lakes at Castle Hills to shoot 59 in a non-competitive round.

Zalatoris Leads Masters Rookies

Zalatoris is one of just six players making their Masters debut in 2021 and, at 2-under par and T4, he's off to the best start of the bunch. Rounding out the Masters newcomers are Robert MacIntyre (+2), Charles Osborne (a) (+4), Tyler Strafaci (a) (+8), Carlos Ortiz (+10) and Joe Long (a) (+10).

Round 1 Leaders

Justin Rose grabbed a commanding four-stroke 18-hole lead after an electric run in which he played Augusta National’s final 11 holes in 9-under par to turn in a 7-under round of 65, two shy of the course record. Rose was 2-over through seven holes before an eagle on the par-5 eighth fueled the run, which was followed by birdies on seven on his next nine holes. Rose, the former No. 1 ranked player in the world, is chasing his second major championship, having won the 2013 U.S. Open.

“I knew that 2-over through seven is not the end of the world, but I also knew that you’re going the wrong direction,” Rose said. “You can’t win the golf tournament today, even with a 65 you can’t win it today. You can only probably lose it today.”

Rose leads Brian Harman and Hideki Matsuyama, who each shot 3-under par 69 on Thursday. Zalatoris, Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed and Christiaan Bezuidenhout are tied for fourth at 2-under par.

Image: Kevin C Cox/Getty Images Sport via Getty Images

About the Author

Nick Heidelberger is the Editor of GolfLink and an active member of the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA). He covers all things golf, from the professional tours to rules, equipment, style, and golf history. In the years prior to joining GolfLink, he worked for the New England Section of the PGA of America. Nick has a degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and has been an avid golfer for more than 10 years.