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Will Zalatoris surges into final pairing at Masters

Will Zalatoris second round 2021 Masters
American Will Zalatoris grabs a share of 2nd place Friday after 36 holes of the Masters, 1 stroke off the lead entering weekend play at Augusta National Golf Club.

American rookie, making his 1st appearance at Augusta National, birdies final 3 holes to shoot 68 and pull within 1 stroke of lead

No player has come farther, faster to reach the weekend at the 85th Masters than Will Zalatoris.

Little more than a year ago, Zalatoris had no status on any professional tour after having turned professional in 2018 out of Wake Forest. He worked his way up the professional-golf ladder via Monday qualifying on the developmental Korn Ferry Tour, earning his place this season on the PGA Tour.

That’s a long way from the last group in the Masters, but that’s where Zalatoris will find himself Saturday at Augusta National Golf Club.

Zalatoris birdied the last three holes Friday to cap a 4-under 68 for a 6-under total through 36 holes. He stood one stroke off the lead, tied with American Brian Harman, the only competitor to shoot in the 60s both rounds, for second place (scores). Zalatoris will join Justin Rose in Saturday's final pairing (tee times).

Zalatoris, 24, a wispy-thin 6-foot-2-inch, 165-pounder with wavy blond hair peeking out from under the back of his cap, said that he had “a lot of gratitude,” adding: “17 months ago, I didn’t have status anywhere. Being in the final group on Saturday is pretty cool.”

After having made the turn with a bogey at the par-4 ninth for a 1-over front side, Zalatoris found his rhythm on the back side. He rolled in a slippery left-to-right birdie putt on the 505-yard, par-4 11th, then drained a 40-footer on the par-3 11th before his flurry on the final three holes. “I one-putted every green on the back,” he said, adding that it helped “putting myself in the right spots.”

Zalatoris, a native Californian who grew up in Dallas, won the 2014 U.S. Junior en route to college golf at Wake Forest. He played on the Americans’ victorious 2017 Walker Cup team before turning professional the next year. With the aforementioned lack of status on any tour, he proceeded to Monday qualify on the Korn Ferry Tour, where he won the 2020 TPC Colorado Championship. He tied for sixth in September at the 2020 U.S. Open.

After earning conditional status on the PGA Tour in the fall as the KFT's season points leader, he has made 13 cuts in 14 starts this in the big leagues. Zalatoris has recorded five top-10 finishes and climbed to No. 46 in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Now, in his first Masters and only his third major championship, he finds himself in the thick of contention. His mantra for the weekend? “Just enjoy it.”

That’s sound advice for any golf tournament, especially the spring invitational in Augusta, Ga.

Morning Read's Full Coverage from Day 2 at 2021 Masters:
Rose leads after day of surprises, by Gary Van Sickle
Will Zalatoris surges into final pairing, by Steve Harmon
Jordan Spieth likes his chances after 36 holes, by Alex Miceli
Podcast: Hawk and Purk sort through a wild day at Augusta
Round 2 in Pictures
Round 3 Tee Times

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