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Will Zalatoris has a ludicrous major record. 

In nine starts, the American has finished in the top-eight on six occasions. That includes a runner-up and a tie for sixth here at Augusta in his two appearances at the Masters so far. If the phrase “Tiger-esque” wasn’t banned from this website, you might argue that case.

Also like Tiger Woods, Zalatoris has seen his career derailed by the need for surgery. This time last year, the 27-year-old had pulled out of a third trip down Magnolia Lane as he went under the knife to sort out a longstanding back issue.

And to make his return to the major championship scene extra special, Zalatoris was treated to nine holes alongside his childhood hero – someone, he said, who “has really helped me a lot with the rehab of coming back from my surgery”.

“It’s always special to be here but obviously given the last year that I’ve had was a very special day,” he added.

So how specifically has the 15-time major champion helped Zalatoris in his recovery?

“It’s more of just, ‘Hey, how you feeling?’ ‘You feel this?’ ‘You feel that?’ The patience game is really hard. Obviously he has gone through way more than what I have gone through. But having the same surgeons, the same team, and just having the conversation about, ‘Hey, after this amount of time how do you feel? After this amount of time how do you feel?’

“I saw him in October at his charity event and spent some time with him on the range there and I wasn’t up to hitting more than irons. I talked to him a little bit about my golf swing. At the time I still was having some residuals, but really after about seven months is when I felt literally 100 per cent.

“So it’s just been a lot of understanding the process and realising that even if a doctor tells you 12 weeks, we’re trying to win and compete at the highest level; it’s technically longer.”

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Zalatoris, who also has runner-up finishes at the US Open and PGA Championship on his CV, revealed that his major prowess is what made Woods take an interest.

“Not really,” he said when asked if he had any previous relationship with Woods. “I always try to give him his space. I’d always been around him a bunch over the last few years.

“With the success I had had in majors and how close I’ve been and how driven I’ve been to get it and then having a setback [and] having the exact same injury. It’s funny because it’s not so much the questions that I’ve asked and him giving the answers, it’s been more the thought-provoking questions that he’s given to me [that] has really been the stuff that’s got me back to where I am now.”

Woods currently ties the record for most consecutive cuts made at the Masters with Fred Couples – and will be looking to go one better than his fellow Green Jacket this week. And it’s something Zalatoris is confident he can do.

“You could just sit there and analyse the same stats for his entire career and put him in five different buckets and every one of them is never going to be broken,” he explained.

“He played great today. He outdrove me a couple times so there was some chirping going on. He looks great. He’s moving as well as he can be.

“With everything he’s gone through, it’s pretty amazing to see how good he’s swinging it.”

Make sure you listen our daily Masters commute episodes of The bunkered Podcast from Augusta!

author headshot

Alex Perry is the Associate Editor of bunkered. A journalist for more than 20 years, he has been a golf industry stalwart for the majority of his career and, in a five-year spell at ESPN, covered every sporting event you can think of. He completed his own Grand Slam at the 2023 Masters, having fallen in love with the sport at his hometown club of Okehampton and on the links of nearby Bude & North Cornwall.

Associate Editor

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