Will Zalatoris was a relative unknown in mainstream sports before the 2021 Masters, when he finished runner-up and one stroke short of Hideki Matsuyama.
The 25-year-old followed that up with a T-8 finish at the PGA Championship at Kiawah, eventually earning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors for the 2020-21 season.
Below is an excerpt from our interview with Zalatoris ahead of this week’s Masters.
In your first career Masters start, you held on to second place for the final three rounds. How did you keep your cool?
As a golfer, your life goal is to win a major. Every kid who pretends that they’re making a putt to win a tournament — it’s usually to win the Masters. I put myself in that situation last year and thought, “I did the hard part, I got here. Why shy away from it now?” I want to win a green jacket. Finishing second means as much as finishing 30th. I think that attitude is actually very freeing.
What about Augusta National plays to your strengths?
Everyone talks about how tough the greens are, but hitting them in the correct spots and giving yourself the most opportunities makes it so much easier. Learning where you can and can’t miss, depending on certain pin locations, favors good ball-strikers. So the fact that I am a very good ball-striker, I’m going to have better looks more often.
What’s it like being part of this huge wave of young talent on the Tour right now?
From the outside looking in, a lot of people are like, “Man, this is amazing. These guys are doing it this young.” You really have to blame Tiger [Woods] for that — seeing him come out and dominate at a young age, it really set the bar for us, especially when it comes to the Masters. We’ve seen Jordan [Spieth] play well there basically every year. Seeing someone that you’ve grown up with have success at the highest level only gives you confidence that you can do it, too.
Read the full interview here.
— Doug Greenberg