Will Zalatoris may be the hottest player on the PGA Tour this season without a single Tour win ever. Scottie Scheffler may be the betting favorite at this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, but
Zalatoris has been on a tear this season, making his 47th career Tour start at TPC Craig Ranch. So far, he’s made 13 starts, has five top-10 results, and a near-miss playoff loss at the Farmers Insurance Open in January, which begs the question: what’s going on?
Putting. That’s exactly it.
All shots-gained figures on Tour rank Zalatoris in the top 11 including the top two in approaching the green (1.048) and tee-to-green (1.767) — with the exception of two: around-the-green (0.089 – 90th) and putting (-0.300 – 170th).
This isn’t a new problem. The 25-year-old has had issues with his putter since he was a junior, altering grips many times during his time at Wake Forest and while attempting to earn his Tour card, until finding relief with the infamous armlock approach.
The issues resurfaced in a big way at Farmers earlier this year, where his longest made-putt in the final round was from 5 feet, 7 inches, but Zalatoris says he’s on the right track in all areas.
On Wednesday, Zalatoris stated, “I really have been putting nicely over the last, really moving back to Match Play.” “I feel like every aspect of my game is performing admirably, and all I have to do now is let the win get in the way.”
While waiting for his turn, Zalatoris finds inspiration in seeing his friend Scheffler finally break through that invisible barrier and achieve enormous success.
“He had to wait a few years for his chance, and then once the gates opened, it looks like he’s winning every event he tees up,” Zalatoris reminisced. “Considering how much golf we play together, it tastes like vinegar pouring out of my mouth, because I adore him.” It’s fascinating to observe. Playing games at home with him and him doing well, I thought I was doing quite well in a little event we had here at home the other day. Shoot 66 and he comes in with 63, and it’s like, oh man, having a bad day.”
Zalatoris understands he can achieve what Scheffler and his other former Walker Cup colleagues are doing — in Scheffler’s case, it means being “Tigeresque” — but the key is to keep going.
“This year, I know my best golf is only ahead of me,” Zalatoris remarked.
Beyond his short game, the long-time Dallas resident’s drive will be the key to another top-10 performance at TPC Craig Ranch.
He got some practice in on Wednesday morning’s nine-hole pro-am, where he “torched” a 3-wood from 265 yards on No. 9.
“I enjoy the idea that it’s a fairly large golf course,” Zalatoris added. “It’s quite long… The farther you go, the less difficult it becomes. However, having lived here since I was nine years old, I’m used to playing in strong winds.”
This week might be a watershed moment for Zalatoris, and if he achieves the one goal he has set for himself in Texas, it will be a serendipitous moment in front of his home fans.
“Winning,” Zalatoris declared. “That’s it.”