AUGUSTA, GA. – Will Zalatoris charmed the patrons and attacked the golf course, finishing second in the 2021 Masters, one shot behind champion Hideki Matsuyama.
At 24, having finished sixth and second in the two majors he has played, Zalatoris is bound for greatness, right?
He may well be. He is an exceptional ball striker who putted well enough to win this week. He is a golf historian who played with great composure. But recent history suggests that a second-place finish at the Masters isn't necessarily a stepladder to a major title.
Second-places at the Masters are more likely to haunt than portend.
Here are the second-place finishers (including ties) since 2000: Ernie Els, David Duval, Retief Goosen, Len Mattiace, Els, Chris DiMarco, Tim Clark, Goosen, Rory Sabbatini, Tiger Woods, Kenny Perry, Chad Campbell, Lee Westwood, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Westwood, Angel Cabrera, Jordan Spieth, Jonas Blixt, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Spieth, Westwood, Rose, Rickie Fowler, Xander Schauffele, Brooks Koepka, Cameron Smith and Sung-Jae Im.
There is a lot of quality on that list, but few used a second-place finish at the Masters as a launching pad.
Duval would win the British Open later in 2001 but would never make another Masters cut.
Zalatoris probably knows all of this.
"This was an absolute dream, to be in this situation," Zalatoris said. "I've been dreaming about it for 20 years. I thought I did a really good job this year of enjoying the moment but not letting it get to me. I let everything soak in on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and went back to work on Thursday.
"To come up one short is motivating but obviously really exciting. It hasn't sunk in. If anything, it's the fact that I'm one shot short. It's sitting right in front of me, wondering where I could have made it up. That's golf."
Schauffele finished three shots back in a tie for third with Spieth, two years after finishing second to Woods. Had he hit his tee shot at No. 16 onto dry land, he might have challenged Matsuyama.
"If you look at my career you could call it a big ball of scar tissue, with a bunch of second-place finishes," he said.
Zalatoris doesn't have scar tissue, not yet. Two years ago he was scrambling to get into tournaments on the Korn Ferry Tour and meeting with his team to discuss playing on minor tours around the world. Now he looks like one of the better ball strikers on the PGA Tour and has guaranteed himself a return to the Masters.
Every time he played the 12th hole this week, he would cross the Hogan Bridge and turn to look back at the beauty of Amen Corner.
"I think the fact that I'm sitting here frustrated that I finished second at the Masters," he said, "is a pretty good sign."