AUGUSTA, Ga. — You look at the Masters leaderboard, and you see a whole range of familiar and kinda-familiar names: Justin Rose. Jordan Spieth. Tony Finau. Will Zalatoris. Justin Thomas.
Wait. Go back. Will Zalatoris? Who the heck is Will Zalatoris?
Well, friend, let us enlighten you. Yes, he's a guy with a surname like an acid reflux medicine. But he's also a dude who's piloted a run with a career trajectory like pre-crash GameStop stock. Let's dig in:
Zalatoris not technically a member of PGA Tour
This is a little complicated, but Zalatoris is technically a member of the Korn Ferry developmental tour. But he's played so dang well in the PGA Tour events he's entered that he's now getting invitations to majors. Seize your chance, friends.
First Masters for Zalatoris
Zalatoris first qualified to play in the U.S. Open in 2019 at Pebble Beach, and all he did there was finish T6 and card an ace on the iconic 7th on Thursday. He'd played the 2016 U.S. Open as an amateur but failed to make the cut. So, as a pro, he's played two majors and been inside the top 6 at both. That's not bad.
Zalatoris has leaped up in world rankings
At the start of 2019, he was ranked 2,006th in the world. One year later, he was up to 672nd. At the start of 2021, he was ranked 59th, and played his way into the Masters with a top-50 ranking that he reached in February.
Zalatoris grew up in the Dallas golf scene
As a wee Texas lad, Zalatoris squared off in junior golf competitions against Spieth, Scottie Scheffler and Patrick Cantlay. Decent warmup competition that helped prep him to win the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2014 and join the 2017 U.S. Walker Cup team.
He's torching the Tour this season
Zalatoris has played in 14 events and made the cut in 13 of them, not missing a single cut since early October. He's finished in the top 5 five times and in the top 25 10 times. He's also been one of the most skilled players from tee to green, ranking in the top 5 in two around-the-green categories ... exactly how you want to flourish heading into Augusta.
He's pals with Tony Romo
The ex-Cowboy QB has made no secret of his love for golf, playing multiple events on sponsors' exemptions. The two are members of the same Texas country club, and Romo reportedly badgers Zalatoris at all hours of the day and night with questions on his swing.
First rookie winner at Augusta in over 40 years?
No rookie since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 has won the Masters, but Zalatoris wants to be the first. And he's picking the brains of guys who know. "It was fun playing with Bernhard Langer, and he said he thinks this was his 38th Masters," Zalatoris said Friday. "I've gotten in five rounds here."
So there you go ... all you need to know about Will Zalatoris heading into his round Saturday. Let's see how long he's able to hold on at the top. Could be awhile.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee, or contact him at email@example.com.
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