Zalatoris aiming high at Bermuda ChampionshipSpecial Temporary Membership within reach, but winning the ultimate goal
October 27, 2020
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
Will Zalatoris' PGA TOUR highlights
SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda – In the fall of 2018, Will Zalatoris failed to advance through First Stage of the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament.
In the spring of 2019, he played the Korn Ferry Tour Monday-qualifying circuit while completing his psychology degree online at Wake Forest.
Today, in the fall of 2020 and just two years into his professional career, he’s on the verge of Special Temporary Membership on the PGA TOUR.
Zalatoris, 24, has taken the golf world by storm since the Return to Golf in June. The Dallas resident via San Francisco has recorded 14 top-20 finishes in his last 15 starts between the PGA TOUR and Korn Ferry Tour, including three top-10s in four TOUR starts this fall: sixth at the U.S. Open, eighth at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, and fifth at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. Now he’s just 3.035 non-member FedExCup points shy of securing Special Temporary Membership, which would allow him to accept unlimited sponsor’s exemptions for the remainder of the 2020-21 PGA TOUR season.
With his top-10 in Las Vegas, Zalatoris earned a spot in this week’s Bermuda Championship, where a two-way T69 finish or better will earn him the requisite non-member points needed to equal or surpass No. 150 in the 2018-19 FedExCup standings. (The official magic number is 288.035 points; Zalatoris currently has 285.)
In a way, Zalatoris is playing with the house money. He finished in the top 10 on the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List through the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, so he’ll get some starts on the PGA TOUR in 2020-21 regardless of this week’s outcome. And considering his recent form, he sees no reason why he shouldn’t play to win at picturesque Port Royal GC.
“Special Temporary status isn’t the end-all, be-all,” Zalatoris said Tuesday. “If you want that to be the end goal, then I could sit here and think I’ve got eight or nine events basically – you add in maybe a few sponsor’s exemptions, and then the starts from the Korn Ferry Tour.
“I want to keep playing as much as possible,” he continued. “I know I’m playing well. Of course I want to play the next two events, but between the (Vivint) Houston Open and The RSM Classic, I’ll either have to Monday qualify or top-10. I want to play in my home state (Texas) especially; that’s something that would really mean a lot to me, to be able to get in and play there. We’ll see what happens.”
Special Temporary Membership does not guarantee sponsor’s exemptions; rather, it allows a player an opportunity to accept an unlimited amount (otherwise, the maximum is seven in a season). To Zalatoris’ point, he would not be guaranteed a spot in Houston or St. Simons Island, Georgia. With exceptionally strong play at Port Royal, though, he could rectify that.
Zalatoris has used just one TOUR sponsor’s invite (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open) this fall. He gained U.S. Open entry via his top-five position on the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List through the WinCo Foods Portland Open, then finished in the top 10 at Winged Foot to earn a spot in Punta Cana. A top-10 finish there got him to the Sanderson Farms Championship.
It’s a run reminiscent of 2019, when Zalatoris began the season with zero Korn Ferry Tour status after finishing T25 at First Stage of Q-School in The Woodlands, Texas, two strokes outside the number. He retooled his game with the help of coaches Troy Denton and Josh Gregory, built confidence, and steadily climbed toward Korn Ferry Tour Special Temporary Membership.
It started when he Monday-qualified into the Savannah Golf Championship and finished 12th, earning a spot at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship (T10). A sponsor’s invite at the BMW Charity Pro-Am, he finished ninth. He got into the LECOM Health Challenge on a sponsor’s invite and finished third, earning enough Points for Special Temporary Membership.
Zalatoris ultimately finished No. 60 on the Regular Season Points List to earn full Korn Ferry Tour status for 2020. And he did it all while juggling golf and college coursework.
Diligent about his studies to the end, he’s been the same about his game, which has kept him on an upward trajectory even amid tougher competition. Port Royal represents yet one more big exam between him and golf’s equivalent of a PhD – PGA TOUR membership.