‘It’s going to take some time to get back to normal’
Will Zalatoris says back injury at Open Championship felt like getting stabbed
August 06, 2021
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
- Will Zalatoris is making his first start since withdrawing from The Open Championship last month. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Will Zalatoris, who shot his second 66 to reach 8 under halfway through the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational, was tight-lipped when asked about his recent back injury earlier this week. He was fine, he said.
As it turns out, Zalatoris – making his first start since getting hurt hitting a shot out of the rough and withdrawing from The Open Championship – is not actually fine. More accurately, he said after his round at TPC Southwind on Friday, he is taking it day by day.
In fact, he almost didn’t play this week.
“I’ve got a little bit of an issue with my back,” he said. “I took about two weeks for me to finally feel at least somewhat remotely in the same ballpark in terms of range of movement.”
If someone had asked him last Saturday whether he was going to play in Memphis, he continued, “I’d have told you 50-50 at best. I played for the first time Sunday and thought I was moving OK. Doc said just listen to your body. It takes a lot for me to not play golf.”
Zalatoris was playing well and within shouting distance of the leaders on July 16 when he hurt his lower back gouging a shot out of the rough on the 15th hole at Royal St. George’s.
“It felt like I was getting stabbed in the back of my left leg,” he said. “It was not fun. I’ve never had anything happen like that in one golf swing. Part of being 24, maybe a little dumb and a little fearless, I didn’t think I was gonna hurt myself.”
He finished the round, but soon announced on social media that he had withdrawn. Although back pain had compelled him to withdraw from the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday earlier this season, he had never felt anything like this. The injury was to a disk in his lower back.
“It’s a couple things,” Zalatoris said. “It’s a little structural, a little muscular. The muscular part is easy to take care of, the structural part is a little harder.”
Always reluctant to take much time off, he now didn’t have much choice. He went home to Dallas, where he said he nearly drove his fiancé crazy knocking around the house. His only job was not to play golf but to do physical therapy with his trainer, Damon Goddard.
It seems to have worked, as his late decision to play this week is paying off. Subsisting on Advil as his only form of pain relief – he says he tried a nerve-blocker and didn’t like it – Zalatoris has made 12 birdies and four bogeys. He hasn’t lost distance, he said, thanks partly to adrenaline.
One of the oddities of his situation is that as a Special Temporary Member of the PGA TOUR he is not eligible for the upcoming FedExCup Playoffs. Only a win this week or next would get him in. Barring an eleventh-hour victory to change his status, he is considering playing some events on the European Tour. Alas, that would be a lot of time on an airplane.
For now, he said, he’s taking it one day at a time.
“It’s a work in progress,” he said. “It’s going to take some time for me to get back to normal.”