Quasi-man Will Zalatoris eyes major breakthrough in St Andrews Old Course debut at The Open

Will Zalatoris has never played at the Old Course. Well, not in real life anyway. “It was on the Tiger Woods video game and I think I shot a 48 at the easy level,” he said of a virtual link bombardment that will likely have worried R&A officials extending their Distance Insights report to computer games. “I think there’s a better chance of hitting 48 over nine holes than 18 next week.”

At the 150th Open Championship, Zalatoris will take a step into the unknown. “I’ve never played there and I’m going there with the attitude of just soaking up the history,” the 25-year-old said.

“When I get there, I’ll do my homework. Everyone told me that when there is no wind, it could be said that it is the easiest major championship site, and when it is windy, it can be the championship site most difficult major. I’m just too excited. With the record I’ve had in the majors, that puts me in a great mental position.

Ah yes, that major record. Considering he’s only been on tour for two years, Zalatoris’ form on golf’s biggest occasions is quite surprising. In nine major outings, he has finished in the top eight six times. That number includes a runner-up finish at last year’s Masters, a runner-up at this season’s US PGA and another runner-up finish at the US Open last month.

“I’ve only been on the PGA Tour for 21 months and the fact that we’re talking about getting a runner-up major slam puts that into perspective,” he said when asked if it was possible to complete this dubious set with yet another close one. miss the Open.

Jack Nicklaus has finished second 19 times in the majors. But then he won 18. So what about Zalatoris getting rid of the monkey and finally making his own major breakthrough? “It’s the goal of a lifetime,” added the world number 13. “I’ve finished third three times in majors; of course I want to get over the hump. I’ve wanted to win a major all my career. I was surrounded by a lot of great champions growing up and wanted to sit in this table with them.

These great champions and confidants include Lee Trevino and Lanny Wadkins. “They were two really great people for me,” Zalatoris said of the two celebrated and decorated activists. “Lee, over 80, is still hitting golf balls on two of the courses we play at home. I kind of imitate a lot of things that Lee does with his full swing. He used to say that when he wanted to hit a fade he weakened his left hand and when he wanted to hit a draw he weakened his right. That way, he might be too aggressive. It’s something I do.

“These two guys taught me a lot. Lanny texted me after the PGA and I told him. ‘it stings, it hurts’. He said, “Well, I have eight silver medals, so I know how it feels.”

Treating sores is normal in a game where you lose far more times than you win. Zalatoris’ losses might have left the kind of deep scars you’d get after a skirmish on a medieval battlefield, but the Californian is made of solid materials and is once again ready for another major assault.

“The fact that I have no regrets every time I go out and play means I can live with (the disappointment),” added Zalatoris, who won the second-tier Korn Ferry Tour in 2020 but won’t. has yet to taste victory on the main PGA Tour. “The PGA Championship (where he lost in the play-off) was hard to swallow because I was right there. But as long as I can leave the golf course after the 72nd hole with no regrets, what can I change?

A big change for Zalatoris was with his putting. At times his stroke, especially on short knee strikes, could be so uncomfortable on the eyes that he should have been buckled. As observers zeroed in on this potentially fatal flaw, Zalatoris blocked out the background whispers.

“I don’t give a damn about skeptics,” he said. “In the beginning when I came on the PGA Tour, I probably listened a little too much to what the guys were saying. Now I don’t care. I worked hard on my putting and found something that added another piece to the plan. That’s why I’ve been riding so well over the past six to eight weeks.

Maybe this plan can finally almost lead the Zalatoris man to a major moment?

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