JACKSON, miss. – Will Zalatoris was one of the most compelling storylines of the PGA Tour’s 2020 super season, and the 25-year-old is once again keeping his name at the top of the headlines and leaderboards to kick off the new Tour season.

After Zalatoris received the Rookie of the Year award last season as a non-member of the Tour – the first since Charles Howell III in 2001 – Zalatoris finished the T-11 and two weeks ago at the Fortinet Championship season opener fired a bogey-free 11-under 61 during the second round of the Sanderson Farms Championship on Friday to take the lead after the morning wave of 13 under.

Zalatoris started the round at the Country Club of Jackson on the second nine with a pair of birdies on numbers 10 and 11 and followed on 13, 16 and 18 to make the turn at 5 under. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, his second nine were even better. On the front, he made four consecutive birdies on numbers 2 through 5 and completed his standout round with two more on 8 and 9. Six of his eleven birdies were 12 feet or more, the longest being a 26-foot par -3 13 .

Sanderson Farms: Results | Route book | photos

“I think it’s funny that I have a hard time putting, and if you add Augusta last year who didn’t have a ShotLink, I would have been a positive putter,” said Zalatoris after his round. “Is it the nicest thing? No. But am I productive? Yes sir.”

Refilling the cup. 🕳 @ WillZalatoris finishes with 11 birdies and secures part of the lead. pic.twitter.com/ykQc9bo9NY

– PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) October 1, 2021

Zalatoris added that he was a little excited to see the Ryder Cup highlights last week, especially seeing players he grew up with team up with Team USA in their historic 19-9 win over Europeans at Whistling Straits represented.

“I’ve been asked many times what your goals are for this year, and apart from a golf tournament, I really don’t have any,” he said.

The Wake Forest graduate is capable of doing just that over the weekend, and he has a kind face right behind him. His three-year Demon Deacon teammate Cameron Young sits T-2 at 12 under with local Mississippi talent Hayden Buckley after both rounds of shooting from 7-under 65. As the afternoon wave began, Aaron Wise and Stephan Jaeger were sitting at T-4 at 10 under.

The Force Awakens.

Former @ WakeMGolf teammates Cameron Young and @WillZalatoris are 1-2 on the @PGATOUR @ Sanderson_Champ leaderboard! pic.twitter.com/QkXFNM4a3R

– Korn Ferry Tour (@KornFerryTour) October 1, 2021

“Yeah, he’s incredibly stoic. The thing about him is that you will never see him as a fireball or anything like that, he’s an incredibly stable player, he hits a mile and when he goes straight I mean it’s hard to beat him because he’s great He’s got hands on the greens too, ”said Zalatoris of Young, who made his first PGA Tour cut this week. “We’ve built a lot of tournaments together so it’ll be a lot of fun because technically we’ve never played a tournament together so hopefully this will be our first time.”

“I mean, I wanted to beat him as badly as anyone because he was the best of all of us, especially his freshman year of college,” said Young, 24, of Zalatoris 40. I don’t think I’ll forget that will, but hopefully I’ll keep it a little tighter this time. “

Buckley, 25, who now lives in Florida after growing up near Tupelo, Mississippi, had the crowd on his side on Friday and he took full advantage.

“They want to be entertaining, I know we’re entertainers at the end of the day and there are so many people who have come to watch, so it’s nice to give them something to cheer on,” Buckley said. “You can probably hear it throughout the course, I know I’ve had a couple of guys who yelled a little too loud, but it’s just so nice to see so many people support me and see what I’m up for which’ve been doing last couple of years.

“I moved away,” Buckley continued. “I went to college in Missouri and haven’t seen a lot of friends as well.”