Thu, 02 Dec 2021

'Sporadic' Will Zalatoris excited to chase first PGA win in Japan

Field Level Media
20 Oct 2021, 04:55 GMT+10

Japan has long topped the "bucket list" of places Will Zalatoris and his fiancee have wanted to travel to.

His first visit to the country won't go quite as Zalatoris imagined, partly due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and largely because he's in Japan this week on business.

Zalatoris, 25, expected to play at least two years on the Korn Ferry Tour before making the jump to the PGA Tour. That timeline was severely truncated when he won three times on the KFT before tying for sixth at the 2020 U.S. Open.

He earned temporary tour status two months later and cracked the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking by February. It was a whirlwind six months that vaulted Zalatoris into the "can't-miss" next star category.

Zalatoris became a household name with his second-place at the Masters, finishing one shot behind winner Hideki Matsuyama following a dramatic Sunday charge. He has also posted top-10s at the PGA Championship and WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in 2021.

"It was a crazy wild year, obviously the highlight being the Masters," Zalatoris said Tuesday ahead of the Zozo Championship. "Yeah, I've always set goals for myself, and my goal for really this past year was to try to win three times on the Korn Ferry to get myself to the PGA Tour. Obviously I got to the PGA Tour a different route.

"Most of the time I don't really reach my goals in the timeline that I'd like just because I set them so high, but it was nice to actually beat one for the first time really in my career."

It is only a matter of when, not if, Zalatoris will claim his first PGA Tour victory. That expectation certainly remains, but the breakthrough has been tough to achieve as his body broke down a bit toward the end of last season.

Zalatoris needed a win to qualify for the FedEx Cup Playoffs, but saw his season come to an end with a T29 at the Wyndham. He opted against heading to Europe to keep his game sharp, choosing instead to take a month off to let his mind and body rest.

Zalatoris began the "Fall Swing" with a T11 and a T14 before missing the cut at the Shriners Children's Open. He took last week off ahead of coming to Japan for a tournament he's extremely excited to compete in for the first time.

"This is a really, really cool event just to put it mildly," he said. "I'm looking forward to this week. This has been an event that I've been pretty excited about for a while.

"I've always wanted to go to Japan, but basically it's my No. 1 country that I wanted to come to for quite a while. A lot of excitement for me to come here this week."

Zalatoris will be competing against a limited 78-player field that includes only five other players ranked in the top 50. Despite lacking a win on his PGA Tour resume, Zalatoris is the fourth betting favorite at 2200 by DraftKings.

Three of Zalatoris' top-four career results have come in majors, so he has a feel for big stages. And he clearly views Zozo as a marquee event, referencing Matsuyama playing in his home country as the reigning Masters champion and Tiger Woods equaling Sam Snead's career PGA Tour victory record here two years ago.

"Yeah, this would be a huge momentum booster, for sure," Zalatoris said. "I've been playing some pretty solid golf. I've been a little sporadic.

"The good (golf) is definitely there for me to contend and win, especially to come here first time to Asia to hopefully get my first victory would be very cool."

--Field Level Media

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