Sports · June 24, 2022

Will Zalatoris will never be satisfied with second place

BROOKLINE, Mass. – As his putt neared the hole on the 18th green on Sunday night, Will Zalatoris thought he was headed for an exciting playoff that would determine the US Open champion. All he had to do was drop and Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick would sort things out in a two-hole playoff.

“About six feet from the end, I thought I had it,” Zalatoris said. He had checked his phone earlier and saw what Paul Azinger, the NBC golf analyst and former PGA Tour pro, had said. “That everyone has lost that top putt,” Zalatoris added.

He continued: “’I’ve been the closest all day. I was like ‘thanks for the consolation prize’. “

Zalatoris is becoming painfully familiar with the consolation prizes. Last month, he lost the PGA Championship to Justin Thomas in a playoff at Southern Hills in Tulsa. He finished second behind Hideki Matsuyama in Masters 2021, just seven months away from the Korn Ferry Tour. And now, another second place in another major.

“Obviously it hurts to have three runners-up so far in my majors career,” he said. “Obviously we are doing the right things. I’d pay a lot of money for about an inch and a half and probably be a three-time world champion at this point. We will continue to do what we are doing “.

Zalatoris can look to the great Ben Hogan for a historical comparison. Hogan was repeatedly labeled a bridesmaid for her inability to win a major during the early and mid-1940s. He lost a playoff to Byron Nelson at the 1942 Masters after taking the lead by three shots. He missed a playoff chance in the 1946 Masters when he made three 12-foot putts, missing a 30-inch putt.

“It just wasn’t my time to win,” Hogan told the New York Times. “However, there is another year coming up.” Two months later, at the US Open outside Cleveland, he again made three putts on the 72nd hole, skipping another short putt and coming out of a playoff won by Lloyd Mangrum. But in the same year he won the PGA Championship, the first of his nine majors.

The difference is that unlike Hogan, who had established himself as one of the best players in the game by consistently winning other tournaments, Zalatoris is still looking for his first PGA Tour win. The consensus is that Zalatoris’ put, especially the putt short, both his Achilles heel. Although he did relatively well at the Country Club – until he lost that bird on the last hole in the final round – he entered the tournament finishing 160th on the putting tour.

Asked what he thought when he saw Zalatoris field a putt, Collin Morikawa said: “I pray for him. I mean, listen, I’m not going to go around the bush. I’ve said it since college, anything outside that 8 to 10 foot zone, I mean, is as smooth as anyone else’s stroke. “

And within 10 feet?

“We saw some squirrel putts,” Morikawa said. “Not that I’m the best putter and I’ve had that little squirrel too, but I think we all get up when we see it.”

Zalatoris had no problem winning before making it to the PGA Tour. He won the 2014 US Junior Amateur Championship. At Wake Forest, he was an All-American and ACC Player of the Year. He has twice won the Trans-Mississippi Amateur Championship. He was on the winning squad of the 2017 US Walker Cup, which also included Scottie Scheffler, who drew with Zalatoris for second place on Sunday, and Morikawa, who finished fifth.

In addition to his three career runners-up to the majors, Zalatoris finished second behind Luke List in a playoff at the Farmers Insurance Open this year. He finished sixth in the Masters, fourth in the Zurich Classic and fifth in the Memorial Tournament.

His world rankings climbed to 12th place and he is ranked 8th in the FedEx Cup rankings. No golfer ranked that high or high has done it without at least one win.

Sunday’s result at the Country Club was seventh in the Zalatoris top ten in 12 events this year. He made it into the top 10 in six of the eight majors he has played for. That’s an impressive record, minus a noticeable hole, or three.

“It’s just little things,” said Zalatoris, who turns 26 in August. “It is not the same in everyone. We are talking about inches. It’s not like I finished second four or five times a couple of times. It was one for all three. So I just have to keep doing what I’m doing. I have to keep knocking on the door because in the end, as I said before, the comfort level is there. “

After Zalatoris analyzed his round and ongoing battle to finally break the winner’s circle, he received a farewell gift from the United States Golf Association – a silver medal for finishing second.