After three close calls early in his career, Will Zalatoris feels his major breakthrough could be just around the corner.
The 25-year-old carries his record of near-misses to the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews in Scotland, for The Open Championship this week.
“I’ve had a nice run in the majors, but the excitement level this week is obviously off the charts,” Zalatoris told reporters Tuesday. “I’ve obviously been very close, specifically in the last two majors. But game’s in a great place and in a great head space. This is a lot of fun.
“Kind of seeing some of the spots from where guys have pulled off amazing shots at this venue and obviously trying to learn as much of the history as I can of the game, it’s pretty incredible.”
Before he even technically had full PGA Tour status, Zalatoris finished a surprising second place to Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama at the 2021 Masters in his debut there.
Then came the 2022 major season. After tying for sixth at Augusta National, he lost to Justin Thomas in a playoff at the PGA Championship and tied for second at last month’s U.S. Open, failing to force a playoff with eventual winner Matt Fitzpatrick of England when his birdie attempt at the 72nd hole missed a hair to the left.
“With my first second-place finish at the Masters, it was such an incredible experience that it was kind of an arrival,” Zalatoris said. “The second one was affirmation. And then the third one, it really gave me a lot of belief that I can be as good as I want to be.
“So I think that it’s a very tough pill to swallow because I would pay a lot of money for about an inch and a half in those three majors considering that I’ve basically missed out on three majors by three shots. But that’s what motivates me. It’s why I get up early. It’s why even on off weeks I’m still grinding.”
Zalatoris made his first start at The Open last year at Royal St. George’s, but he had to withdraw when he injured his back while hitting a shot out of heavy rough.
The young star said part of his preparation for this week came by playing St. Andrews on the “Tiger Woods ‘05” video game.
“There’s some spots (at St. Andrews) where missing it in one spot is great for some pins and it’s atrocious for other pins,” Zalatoris said. “So being able to figure that out obviously throughout the week has been a great challenge and has been very interesting.
“But, yeah, going back to “Tiger Woods ‘05,” I don’t think I’ll be shooting 48 this week in 18 holes.”
–Field Level Media