WASHINGTON (AFP) — Will Zalatoris will try to build on the momentum of his runner-up finish at the Masters as he seeks a first US PGA Tour title at the RBC Heritage this week.
The 24-year-old American birdied two of his last four holes at Augusta National to finish one stroke behind Hideki Matsuyama — who became the first Japanese player to win one of golf’s Grand Slam tournaments.
“Obviously an amazing week,” Zalatoris said of his outing at Augusta National.
“To be in contention on a Sunday at Augusta was obviously a dream come true. Obviously to come up one short will sting forever, but I know that I can contend against the best players in the world, and I know I’m capable of getting those two shots somewhere pretty soon.”
Zalatoris jumped 19 places in the world golf rankings to 27th — but he’s still not a full member of the US PGA Tour, and as things stand, is ineligible for the season-ending playoffs series.
A first victory would see to that, and add a little certainty for Zalatoris — who secured his US Open berth last September based on his standing on the developmental Korn Ferry Tour.
A sixth-place finish at Winged foot led to some US PGA Tour starts, many through sponsor exemptions. Going into the Masters he had already gained special temporary status for the PGA Tour season.
In 15 starts he has six top-10 finishes, and Zalatoris said all the uncertainty only made his experience at Augusta National more enjoyable.
“I still wish I could put into words how much fun I actually had,” he said.
“I was able to appreciate playing in my first Masters because, of course, like I’ve said, I really haven’t taken anything for granted over the last two years, going from Monday (qualifying) for Korn Ferry events to playing on the Korn Ferry Tour, possibly playing the Korn Ferry Tour for two years to then playing in my first Masters, it’s a crazy wild ride that I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it.”
The field at Harbour Town Golf Links at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina also features world No. 1 Dustin Johnson — aiming to regroup after missing the cut in his title defense at Augusta National.
“The game is OK,” Johnson said. “Obviously last week I really struggled with the putting, so I’m putting in a lot of work this week on it.”
“Probably the worst I’ve putted in a long time,” added Johnson, who had six three-putts over the first two rounds.
“It was disappointing,” said Johnson, who said he was happy to stick around Augusta through the weekend in order to be available to slip the green jacket onto Matsuyama’s shoulders in the traditional trophy ceremony at Augusta.
“I would have liked to have kept it, but I’ve got one, so it still felt good,” Johnson said. “And obviously very happy for Hideki. He played great. I think it’s great for golf. It’s great for him.”