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April 11, 2021

Will Zalatoris

Augusta, Georgia, USA

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome our 2021 Masters runner-up, Will Zalatoris. Congratulations, Will.

WILL ZALATORIS: Thank you. Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: Will finished the tournament at 9-under par following rounds of 70, 68, 71 and 70.

Will, you had an excellent showing in your first Masters appearance.


THE MODERATOR: Can you tell us how it felt to be in contention today and your experience through the week.

WILL ZALATORIS: Yeah, absolute dream. To be in a situation, I've been dreaming about it for 20 years. I thought I did a really good job this week of just enjoying the moment, but not letting it get to me. I think I kind of let everything soak in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and then back to work on Thursday.

So it was an absolute treat, and obviously to come up one short and be disappointed is motivating but obviously very exciting.

Q. You said you let things soak in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and there's a lot more to soak in now obviously. Has that process already started, or how do you envision that playing out?

WILL ZALATORIS: It hasn't sunk in. I think, if anything, it's just the fact that I'm one shot short. It's just kind of sitting right in front of me, thinking through where I could have found that one or two shots, really. That's just golf every single week. You always think about those one or two.

But like I said, the fact I put myself in contention and was able to handle it and be in the final group in my third major in my entire career is obviously really exciting.

Q. Do you feel like your days of under the radar are over now? What do you think is going to come about with all this?

WILL ZALATORIS: I have no idea. But it was a lot of fun, obviously, hearing a lot of the Patrons over the last -- especially the last couple days, saying my name, you know, cheering me on on every single hole between every single shot. It was really special.

You know, when you think of playing in this tournament, you think of the shots, but hearing the Patrons rooting for you just because they know that I'm the underdog was really cool.

Q. Is that your first standing ovation that they gave you at 18?

WILL ZALATORIS: Absolutely. Yeah, I just took as many mental images in my mind, because I've watched this tournament for as long as I can remember, and the fact that I was a part of it is pretty special, and the fact that I contended is even cooler.

Q. I heard a story from maybe last summer or summer of 2019, you were driving back from a Korn Ferry event when Matt Wolff won in his third or fourth start since turning pro. When you look back on your journey, would you trade anything, and are you glad that you had to cut your teeth a little bit and get stronger and better to ultimately get to this point?

WILL ZALATORIS: Yeah, absolutely. This game is very fickle and it will -- if you're not mentally tough, it will get to you. Going through a full year and change of Monday qualifiers for the Korn Ferry and being unsuccessful and finally getting a couple that I qualified for and getting status on the Korn Ferry Tour and seeing guys on my Walker Cup Team being successful, it wasn't frustrating. It was actually motivating and exciting because I knew I could do what they are doing. And even if I wasn't playing at their level, I knew I was capable of doing what they were doing.

It was a pretty rough first year as a pro. And like I've mentioned, I guess it was a little under two years ago I was sitting down with my coaches and my agent and talking about playing mini-tour events, and not even two years later frustrated that I was one shot short of winning the Masters. It's a pretty cool feeling.

Q. You have a lot of great people around you, Josh, Troy, your parents, Tony, but kind of the second father figure in your life was DP. Can you just talk about what he meant to you and basically getting your golf career launched off the ground?

WILL ZALATORIS: Yeah, I mean, I was 11 years old, and he sat me down in his office and he said, "You know, I know you love playing the game, but if you want to be good at it, you have to work at it." As an 11-year-old, hearing somebody besides your parents basically say, hey, you need to get to work and if you want to be good, you've got to go earn it.

I mean, our lesson, we'd schedule an hour -- every lesson was two hours, minimum. He has always been a father figure on and off the golf course, and you know, he's taught me so much. He was basically -- obviously my parents will always say that they believed in me, but he was the first one that really pushed me to get to this level.

He's just an incredible man, and I'm pretty thankful for him.

Q. We hear guys talk about how long the wait is for a two o'clock tee time; what did you do to kill the time?

WILL ZALATORIS: I slept great. I slept in a little bit. I'm a student of the game; so I hear a lot of the guys talking about when they have a later tee time, they like to stay up. We were eating dinner at about 9:45 last night because of the late finish. So I needed to sleep in anyways to get some rest because it's a long week, and even now I'm still running on adrenaline. It will hit me tomorrow.

But like I said, I've wanted to be in this position my entire life. I don't need to shy away from it now. I've made it this far. Why now be timid? I thought, like I said, I did a really good job of enjoying the moment but not letting it get to me, too.

Q. How aware were you of everything that was happening?

WILL ZALATORIS: Yeah, I looked at every leaderboard all the way in. I've seen enough coverage of this tournament, when they put the time stamps of leaderboards where at 4:15 Eastern there's a five-shot lead and at 4:30 it turns to three and at 5:00 there's three guys tied for the lead. So I knew I needed to stay in it. I hit a lull on 12, 13, 14, when the lead got to six. I thought five was basically the most that could get away on this golf course. There's obviously a lot of birdie holes on the back and a lot of chances to get in trouble.

I needed -- 13 this week, I played it in even par, and that's really the difference.

Q. What would you say you learned about yourself this week?

WILL ZALATORIS: I think the fact that I'm frustrated I finished second in my third major says something, and the fact that I didn't let any moment really get to me, was really exciting. And obviously my two majors as a pro, I finished sixth and runner-up. I know if I keep doing what I doing, I'm going to have a really good chance in the future.

Q. On Sunday in contention heading into Amen Corner, how does that feel?

WILL ZALATORIS: It was pretty cool. If you look at the cameras every single day when I cross the bridge on 12, I look back, because my dad told me, you know, he's played here twice and he just said, "Look back and enjoy it because it's a view that you don't really get. The fact that you're doing this in the Masters, that's your point to reflect on how cool it is to be here."

Q. You told us earlier in the week that you joked about if you were stupid enough to believe you could play in the Masters, you were stupid enough to believe you could win it. Looking back now after the performance, is there anything about the way you reacted during the week that surprised you in a positive way? Because obviously it's been a positive experience.

WILL ZALATORIS: Yeah, I think being in the final group on Saturday, I thought I was more nervous in the morning waiting around than I was really on the first tee.

I did a really good job this weekend in particular of saving par yesterday on 1, kind of settling in, and today starting off birdie, birdie and off to the races. Those first couple holes are basically where you could play them at 1-over and feel like you're behind the 8-ball, and you have that stretch of 4 through 7 coming that's the toughest stretch on the golf course by far, and the day can get away from you pretty quickly.

The fact that I got off to nice starts this weekend really showed how well I was handling myself.

Q. Since you're a student of the game, what do you make of the trend in the last decade of players making a strong run to the top of the leaderboard? What do you attribute that to? What's fueling that these days?

WILL ZALATORIS: I think it's the Masters. Everybody watches. Everybody remembers. I was laughing with my parents last night talking about how I could give you a memory of every single hole. I mentioned that I've seen guys for years when the pin is back left on 10, guys missing that putt low. Examples like that.

But I think has a lot to do with Tiger, a lot of kids getting into the game and a lot of kids watching his success here, and especially he won in '97 and he won in 2019, and he's our trendsetter for the game. I think that's part of the reason why so many kids come out early, is we saw him be fearless at a young age, and we come out and play fearless. And then on top of that, we were interested in watching the tournament year-in, year-out.

And I think that's something the Masters does so incredibly well is you can watch every single shot of every single player. Even this morning I'm sitting around watching guys play the golf course to see how holes are playing. But I think a lot of that has to do with Tiger, especially.

Q. During the telecast, Jim Nantz was talking about a lesson you had with Ken Venturi when you were six years old, and Venturi of course had his own history, as well. Can you describe that lesson or your encounter with him?

WILL ZALATORIS: Yeah, I was too young to really appreciate who he was. My dad was a member at California Golf Club for 20 years and that was kind of his stomping grounds. There's a massive shrine in the men's grill there of all of his success.

I was hitting balls on the range, and he saw me just rapid-fire, nonstop hitting bucket after bucket of golf balls. And he went over and taught me how to hold a golf club, and he said, "Don't ever change it." And I've had an overlap grip ever since that lesson.

THE MODERATOR: Well, you've certainly come a long way, Will, and we congratulate you again on a terrific week.

WILL ZALATORIS: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

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