Will Zalatoris in major championship striking distance once again
June 18, 2022
By Kevin Prise , PGATOUR.COM
- Will Zalatoris battled major tournament conditions to card a 67 on Saturday. (Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
BROOKLINE, Mass. – Will Zalatoris’ career goal is to win a major championship.
The goal was rooted at age 6, when a young Zalatoris noticed Ken Venturi’s 1964 U.S. Open trophy on display at the California Golf Club of San Francisco, one of two courses that cultivated his love for the game as an elementary schooler, alongside par-3 Mariners Point Golf Center.
“Probably when I recognized the U.S. Open trophy being at Cal Club,” said Zalatoris of his goal’s origins. “Walked by it every single day when we went to Cal Club. It’s still sitting there.”
Zalatoris has done everything in his power to reach this goal, putting himself in position time and time again to chase a major championship title. He entered this week’s U.S. Open at The Country Club with five top-10 finishes in eight career major starts, including a runner-up at the 2021 Masters and a playoff loss to Justin Thomas at last month’s PGA Championship.
He’s in position yet again at Brookline, where he competed at the 2013 U.S. Amateur and has long regarded as one the most difficult courses he has played. On a demanding Saturday afternoon outside Boston, Zalatoris carded 3-under 67, the day’s low round.
Zalatoris began the third round trailing 36-hole co-leaders Collin Morikawa and Joel Dahmen by four strokes. He ended the day at 4-under, tied for the clubhouse lead with Matt Fitzpatrick – winner of the 2013 U.S. Amateur at Brookline, where Zalatoris fell five strokes shy of qualifying for match play.
Zalatoris, 25, is regarded as perhaps the best player yet to notch a PGA TOUR title, and it’s not for lack of opportunities.
The Wake Forest alum stands No. 13 on the FedExCup standings, with seven top-10s in 17 starts including two runner-up finishes, the highest-ranked player on the FedExCup without a career TOUR victory. He’s No. 14 on the Official World Golf Ranking, also the highest ranked without a TOUR title.
Zalatoris, known as one of the game’s premier ball strikers, clearly thrives on the demanding setups presented by major championships. Saturday afternoon at The Country Club fit the bill with consistent winds, narrow targets and increasingly firm greens.
The first-year PGA TOUR member, who won 2021 TOUR Rookie of the Year honors as a non-member, wasn’t fazed. He made birdie on holes 2, 4 and 9, offset by just one bogey at the short par-4 seventh. He made eight pars on the back nine, adding a birdie at the 503-yard, par-4 15th after a short iron to 5 feet. He got up and down from a front greenside bunker at No. 18 to post the day’s low round, one better than Fitzpatrick and Denny McCarthy.
Zalatoris previously said that he felt “imposter syndrome” in his PGA Championship playoff against Thomas. As he finds this stage time and again, his confidence grows. Throughout his career, he has maintained a consistent self-belief that he’s working on the right things and capable of performing on the highest level.
“Coming off the PGA (Championship), it gave me a lot of belief and confidence that I belong in this situation,” Zalatoris said. “There’s a difference in thinking it and then actually being in the situation and believing it. So I think that’s probably the biggest change.
“I’ve put myself in this situation a few times in my career, and obviously have to go out and get it tomorrow.”
Zalatoris didn’t see immediate success in professional golf. After falling short at Q-School, he earned enough points as a Korn Ferry Tour non-member (via a combination of Monday qualifiers and sponsor exemptions) to gain Special Temporary Membership. He fell short of earning a TOUR card via the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour Finals, and after accruing the most Korn Ferry Tour points throughout the 2020 calendar year, he earned enough non-member FedExCup points that fall to earn Special Temporary Membership on TOUR.
He's now a first-year TOUR member, but his game indicates a confidence and maturity beyond his years. It has been earned. Now he takes aim at his first TOUR title, his first major title, against a backdrop that appears well suited for his skill set.
Somewhere, that 6-year-old kid is nodding with approval.
“I’ve had a few long waits so far in my career,” Zalatoris said. “I’ll make sure I try to stay up a little bit tonight and make sure I sleep in just to kill some time. The fact that this place is that brutal and that there are so many major champions around the leaderboard … I don’t feel like I’m trying to protect it by any means.
“Stick to the routine and go play some twilight golf.”