Friday's golf: Will Zalatoris shoots 61 to share lead at Sanderson Farms

Associated Press

Jackson, Miss. — Will Zalatoris felt like he couldn't miss on the green and rarely did Friday 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.

Will Zalatoris pumps his fist after making a birdie on the ninth hole of his second round of the Sanderson Farms Championship golf tournament in Jackson, Miss., Friday, Oct. 1, 2021.

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 U.S. 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 U.S. Open last September and tying to second in the Masters.

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All that's left is to win.

“I've gotten asked a lot, ‘What are your goals for this year?’ And besides winning a golf tournament, I really have any,” he said. “Of course, everyone has goals of trying to be on a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup. I would be lying if I said I don’t have a little fire in my belly after missing out and watching guys that I grew up with playing as a part of Team USA.”

Playing on sponsor exemptions last year, he still finished No. 22 in the Ryder Cup standings.

Watney hit only two fairways, though not by much and he was rarely out of position.

“It didn’t seem that stressful. That sounds really stressful, but it wasn’t that stressful,” he said. “For the most part I kept it in the right spot on the greens and I made a few kind of bonus putts that you might not expect to make. So those are always fun.”

Cameron Young and Hayden Buckley each shot 65 and were one shot out of the lead. Roger Sloan of Canada shot 67 and was two behind.

Sam Burns, who was seriously considered as a pick for the Ryder Cup, was among those three shots behind.

LPGA

So Yeon Ryu finally quit thinking about her swing and thought only about scoring just in time to birdie the last three holes for a 6-under 65 and a share of the lead with Jodi Ewart Shadoff in the ShopRite LPGA on Friday.

Scoring was so low on the Bay Course of Seaview that 20 players shot 67 or better.

Ewart Shadoff, who has missed the cut in her last eight LPGA Tour events, birdied the par-5 18th to join Ryu in the lead.

Jin Young Ko, the world's No. 2 player, Inbee Park and Solheim Cup star Matilda Castren of Finland were among those one shot behind at 66.

U.S. Women's Open champion Yuka Saso birdied four of her last seven holes to join the chase. She was among those at 67.

Getting off to a quick start is important at the ShopRite LPGA because it's a 54-hole event.

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Ryu, a two-time major champion and former No. 1 player in women's golf, didn't get off to the fastest start. She began on No. 10 and was only 1 under through 12 holes when she made eagle on the par-5 third hole.

The South Korean player said she has been working on her downswing to keep it from coming too far inside. It seemed that's all she could think about at times.

“Sometimes I'm too addicted to golf swing,” Ryu said. "I really try hard to just think about how I’m going to play instead of just how I’m swinging. So I think that’s the thing I really struggle on the golf course and that’s the focus on the golf course.

“I just only realize it just five holes to go,” she said. “So I just told myself, ‘So Yeon, let’s just focus on how I’m playing instead of swing.’ I think that one really help me out.”

The only time Ewart Shadoff played all four rounds since early June, she still didn't get paid. Playing for Team Great Britain in the Olympics against a 60-player field, she tied for 40th.

“This year hasn’t been the greatest for me, and I've been working on a lot breathing just to settle me down. Just saying in my routine today was really important,” she said.

She also has been putting in extra time on the green, and saw that pay off. Ewart Shadoff decided to switch from cross-handed to what she described as a “Tommy Fleetwood claw pencil grip.” It seemed to work, at least for the opening round.

Lexi Thompson, who hasn't won since the ShopRite LPGA two years ago, opened with a 68.

European Tour

Tyrrell Hatton produced a brilliant display of links golf in Scotland on Friday to keep himself on track for a third victory at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.

The Englishman, fresh off the 19-9 hammering from the United States in the Ryder Cup, could not have faced a much tougher test as he played the famously difficult Carnoustie on day one and then met high winds at Kingsbarns on day two.

But after posting a sparkling 64 at the British Open venue, he battled to a 70 in the second round to get to 10 under and lead by one heading into a weekend over the Old Course at St Andrews.

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Fellow Englishman Daniel Gavins was his nearest challenger, a shot clear of 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett and China's Li Haotong.

“I was fortunate at times where, when I did hit a bad shot, I didn't end up in too much of a dodgy position,” Hatton said.

Starting at the 10th, Hatton turned in level par with three birdies and three bogeys but back-to-back gains on the sixth and seventh took him to the top of the leaderboard.

Gavins carded a 68 at Carnoustie, Willett signed for a 69 at Kingsbarns, and Li recorded a 72 at St Andrews to make his first cut in 14 events this year.

Hatton’s Whistling Straits teammate Tommy Fleetwood sat at 7 under alongside Dane Jeff Winther, one shot clear of a group containing another Ryder Cup player in Ireland’s Shane Lowry, his countryman John Murphy, Scot Ewen Ferguson, and England’s Oliver Fisher.