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Zalatoris shoots 61 to share lead at Sanderson Farms

Will Zalatoris
watches his shot
out of a bunker up
to the third green
of the Silverado
Resort North
Course during
the first round
of the Fortinet
Championship golf
tournament in
Napa, California.

JACKSON, Mississippi: Will Zalatoris felt like he couldn’t miss on the green and rarely did on Friday (Saturday in Manila) in setting the course record with an 11-under 61 to share the lead with Nick Watney and Sahith Theegala in the Sanderson Farms Championship.

Zalatoris, voted the PGA Tour rookie of the year despite not having full status last year, made it look so simple at the Country Club of Jackson that his longest putt for par was 3 feet.

One of the poorer shots he hit was on the par-5 third hole after making the turn. He hit a weak fade into a bunker some 30 yards away and blasted out to 3 feet, turning a difficult shot into yet another birdie.

“The days where I make 20-footers, those are the days that I end up putting a great round together, because I’m always going to be the guy that’s going to hit 14 plus greens to give myself chances,” Zalatoris said.

Watney, coming off his worst season in a decade, backed up a solid start with another good round. He opened with four birdies in six holes and dropped only one shot on his way to a 66.

Theegala also held his own after opening with a 64, new territory for the California rookie in just his second start as a PGA Tour member. He chipped in for eagle on the par-5 third hole to right back in the mix. Theegala finished with a 30-foot birdie putt for a 67.

They were at 13-under 131 in what figures to be a week of low scoring.

The cut was at 5-under 139. Among those who missed was Sergio Garcia, the defending champion playing a week after a draining Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits.

Former US Open champion Gary Woodland took two shots from behind the ninth green on his final hole and made bogey for a 73 to miss the cut by one.

Zalatoris had a remarkable rookie season without having full status, boosted by a tie for sixth in the US Open last September and tying second in the Masters.

All that’s left is to win.

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