Will Zalatoris comes close to winning PGA Championship
May 22, 2022
By Sean Martin , PGATOUR.COM
- Will Zalatoris came up just shy once again at a major championship. (David Cannon/Getty Images)
TULSA, Okla. – A bogey save from a cart path, an up-and-down from a penalty area and a missed 4-footer on the 70th hole. Will Zalatoris overcame all of it to earn a spot in a playoff with Justin Thomas at the PGA Championship. And he did it with the club that has caused so much consternation, holing 8-footers on the final two holes to tie Thomas for the clubhouse lead.
Thomas won his second Wanamaker Trophy by shooting 1 under in their three-hole playoff, but Zalatoris once again proved that he’s at his best on the toughest courses, the ones that “let my ball striking do the talking,” he said earlier this week. He now has five top-10s in his last seven major appearances, including a pair of runners-up.
Paradoxically, one of the top performers in the major championships over the past two years also is seeking his first PGA TOUR victory. The PGA Championship was his second playoff loss of the year, as he also fell in sudden-death at the Farmers Insurance Open. On Sunday, he rose to a career-high 14th in the world ranking and 13th in the FedExCup.
“I know I’m going to get one,” said Zalatoris, 25. “Just a matter of time.”
He started the day three shots behind leader Mito Pereira, but he birdied Nos. 4 and 5 to pull even. Then his tee shot on the sixth hole caught a gust and bounded into the bushes that line the course. He took an unplayable lie but had to chip from the cart path, knocking that one to 8 feet before holing the bogey putt. He bogeyed the next hole, as well, and was in trouble after his tee shot on the long, par-3 eighth hole bounded into the penalty area. His 30-yard pitch from thick rough came to rest 8 feet from the hole and he sank that putt, as well.
Zalatoris bogeyed the 12th hole after a wayward drive but looked like he could pick up a shot on the difficult 16th after he hit his 215-yard approach to 25 feet. He three-putted instead, missing a 4-foot par putt. Short putts are the weakness for one of the TOUR’s best ball strikers, but Zalatoris made clutch putts on the final two holes. He admitted that he was lucky for his tee shot on the 72nd hole to avoid the water after striking a tree, but he took advantage of the break by holing his slick par putt.
“I knew I needed those putts,” he said. “Those are putts that you keep in the memory bank for the future.”
He and Thomas went to a playoff after Pereira, who was one ahead when he arrived at 18, drove into a creek and made double bogey. Zalatoris and Thomas both birdied the first playoff hole, the par-5 13th, before Thomas pulled one ahead with another birdie at the drivable 17th. He clinched his second major championship by knocking his 9-iron approach on 18 to 30 feet and two-putting for par.
Zalatoris was looking to join his childhood rivals, Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler, as a major champion. The trio grew up together in Dallas, and each went on to win the U.S. Junior Amateur. Zalatoris has had his chances. He was still a Korn Ferry Tour member when he tied for sixth at the 2020 U.S. Open, then finished runner-up at the next year’s Masters. Zalatoris, who won the 2014 Trans-Mississippi Amateur at Southern Hills, was the 36-hole leader this week after opening with rounds of 66 and 65. He struggled with his putter in a frustrating 73 on Saturday that knocked him three back of Pereira, but he nearly dug himself out of that hole and made his first PGA TOUR win a major.
“it's been a dream of mine to win a major since I was a little kid,” Zalatoris said.
He continues to come close to fulfilling it.