Will Zalatoris has already been nicknamed Showtime by former Masters champion Patrick Reed. “Why?” said the 2018 winner. “Because he’s supposed to be in Hollywood. He’s supposed to be in films.”
The world No.46 did not get the fairytale ending to his Augusta debut by becoming the first rookie winner since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979.
But the 24-year-old, who looks a cross between Owen Wilson and Princess Diana, showed he has the star quality to be a leading man on the big stage for years by finishing a shot behind winner Hideki Matsuyama.
Zalatoris, who shot a closing 70 to finish on nine-under par, said: “It was an absolute dream to be out there competing for the Masters. To be in a situation, I’ve been dreaming about it for 20 years.
“It was a fun week. To come up one shot short is very motivating. I am obviously excited to come back in future years and hopefully be one shot better.
“I did a really good job today of staying patient all day, even on the back nine. I have seen enough Masters to know five shots can dwindle very quickly. The whole week I am proud of the way I played and how I handled myself.”
The tall, blond country club American of Greek origin already has quite a story.
“Seventeen months ago, I didn’t even have my card on the Korn Ferry Tour,” he said.
The former Walker Cup star won his first professional event on the second-tier KFT in July last year and finish top of the 2020-21 points list to qualify for the US Open where he finished tied sixth.
He had a special temporary membership of the PGA Tour, which allows him unlimited sponsor exemptions this season and he qualified for his first Masters by entering the top 50 in the world last month.
Before his Masters debut, his ninth start in 2021 on the PGA Tour, he said: “I wanted to be here my entire life. Some people shy away from that, but I’m excited to be here. I’ve wanted to be here forever. There’s no reason to feel intimidated now. I made it here.”
Zalatoris shot opening rounds of 70 and 68 in the company of former winner Bernhard Langer.
“I think he’s a very confident player,” said the German. “I already thought he was special on TV, and then I experienced him in person today, and I would definitely agree. He’s going to be one of the stars for the future.”
The 24-year-old, who played in the final group with Justin Rose in the third round, said after his first round: “Kind of the joke that I’ve been saying with my family is if I’m stupid enough to think I can play here, then I’m stupid enough to think I can win it.”
Instead he is the first Masters rookie to finish as solo runner-up since Dan Pohl in 1982.
Jordan Spieth led after three rounds on his debut in 2014 before finishing tied second. He returned to win Green Jacket the following year.