As Jordan Spieth struggles, Plano’s Will Zalatoris keeps Dallas-area golf on the map at the Masters

Zalatoris heads into the final round tied for second, four strokes behind the leader Hideki Matsuyama.

I know from personal experience it is unwise to suggest Jordan Spieth is out at the Masters. In 2018, nine shots back when the final round began, Spieth’s ninth birdie of the day tied him with Patrick Reed on the 16th hole. He finished two strokes behind Reed with an incredible 64.

So while Spieth’s even-par 72 Saturday left him six shots behind leader Hideki Matsuyama, and no one has won this event this century from more than four strokes behind on Sunday, I will say Spieth is merely a long shot.

But before he can think about using last week’s victory in San Antonio as a springboard to a second Green Jacket, he needs to manage something else first.

He needs to be Low Dallas Guy.

And that honor after 54 holes goes to Plano’s Will Zalatoris, a 24-year-old Trinity Christian-Addison graduate, who shot 71 in the final group Saturday playing alongside Justin Rose, to tie Xander Schauffele, Marc Leishman and Rose for second place. They are are all four strokes behind Matsuyama, who seemed determined to take the cliché that says “the Masters starts on the back nine Sunday” and win the tournament there Saturday with a six-under 30 over the final nine holes.

But if Spieth’s even-par 72 reminded us that his rediscovered game remains mortal, Zalatoris kept Dallas-area golf on the front page. Two weeks ago it was Highland Park’s Scottie Scheffler, 24 like Zalatoris and a UT-ex like Spieth, finishing second at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies match play event in Austin. Then Spieth won his first tournament in four years at San Antonio with a final-round 66.

Now comes Zalatoris, built like a two-iron and hitting masterful shots from tee to green in his first season on the PGA Tour. He already owns five top-10 finishes and has made the cut in 11 consecutive stroke play events.

In the early part of Saturday’s round, prior to a rain delay that softened the course (at least for Matsuyama), Zalatoris found himself alone in second place just a stroke behind Rose, who had led after the first two rounds. Not long after, he found himself briefly in a three-way tie for first.

The Japanese star owned the back nine and it’s his tournament to lose now, with a solid four-shot lead going into Sunday. But who knows what pressure he will feel in trying to secure his first major championship?

And the question that easily follows is which player from North Texas, Spieth or Zalatoris, will be the one giving chase in the season’s first major?

If it proves to be Spieth, his reputation as a magician will reach new heights. And if it’s Zalatoris ... maybe he can get his Twitter account verified.

Find more golf coverage from The Dallas Morning News here.

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