Will Zalatoris marvels at his rapid ascent to Masters

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Will Zalatoris looked around at Augusta National on Monday and marveled — at the beauty of the golf course and because he’s here this week to play in his first Masters at age 24.

“Seventeen months ago, I didn’t even have status on the Korn Ferry Tour,’’ Zalatoris said. “It’s cool to think back on all the craziness that’s happened over the last year and a half, and it’s led to me to be here.’’

Zalatoris, who is ranked 45th in the Official World Golf Ranking, said he has his parents, girlfriend and her mother with him this week.

“I was joking about it with Caitlin, my girlfriend, that this beats playing Monday qualifiers in Evansville, Indiana, for the Korn Ferry Tour,’’ he said. “That’s why I kind of have that same attitude of just kind of appreciating it more and more every step of the way, going from Monday qualifiers and shooting 67 and going home to now being able to come out here and play.’’

The opposite side of the spectrum from Zalatoris is Matt Jones, the 40-year-old Australian who got into the field by virtue of his Honda Classic win last month, his first victory in seven years. The last time Jones played the Masters was seven years ago when he won the week before to get into the field.

“It’s a long time between drinks, but it was worth the wait,’’ Jones said Monday. “I wasn’t sure if it would ever happen again.”

Asked about his memories from the 2014 Masters, Jones said, “I won the week before, flew in that night, had nowhere to stay, stayed on Kevin Stadler’s couch. He had a house here. It was a blur. I do remember having a hole-in-one on the Par-3, and that was probably one of my fondest memories in golf, having my 2-year-old daughter get the ball out of the hole. That was probably one of the best memories I have in golf.’’

Unfortunately, because of COVID-19 restrictions, there is no Par-3 Contest this week, and there wasn’t one in November for the last Masters.

Collin Morikawa, one of the top young players in the game, was asked Monday what the secret to his immediate success — a major championship victory and a World Gold Championship victory to his résumé by age 24.

“I think that’s one of the biggest things is that I stayed four years in college, got my degree, because I really used that last year to be as prepped as I could or as I can by the time I got out here,’’ Morikawa said. “I didn’t want to take time and slowly work my way. I wanted to be ready for when I got the starts, and I got those opportunities because you only get so much opportunities in life, and hopefully you can take advantage of what you’re given.’’

Adam Scott, the 2013 Masters winner, called the annual Tuesday night Champions Dinner “one of the highlights of my year every year.’’

Scott served Australian “bugs,’’ which are lobsters, as the highlight of his 2014 menu.

Dustin Johnson, the defending champion and the host of Tuesday’s affair, will be serving a more basic menu that includes pigs in a blanket, lobster and corn fritters for appetizers, a house or Caesar salad, filet mignon and miso-marinated sea bass, mashed potatoes and spring vegetables with peach cobbler or apple pie with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

For Scott, it’s not about the menu but the social aspect of the night.

“I think there’s quite a strong bond between all the Masters champions and a high level of respect for all the guys in the room between each other,’’ Scott said. “It’s a fun evening to kind of gather and somewhat reminisce.’’

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