No Victory But Another Major Success for Young Star Will Zalatoris at 2022 PGA Championship
Sundays in Major Championships are what Will Zalatoris lives for. . . Just look at his resume.
Sunday, he recorded his fifth top-10 finish in a major championship in just eight starts when he lost in a playoff to Justin Thomas at the PGA Championship.
“We've only got four a year and I think it's been a dream of mine to win a major since I was a little kid,” Zalatoris said after the loss on Sunday. “You know, it's never going to be world No. 1 or anything like that. It's been to win a major.”
Playing with a no-holds-barred attitude and a belief that every shot in a major championship deserves full commitment earned Zalatoris a spot in the playoff with Thomas at the par 4 18th hole.
Just two holes prior, at the par-4, 16th, Zalatoris had made bogey to drop two-strokes back of 54-hole leader Mito Pereira. Thomas was already in the clubhouse at 5-under par. Zalatoris was playing in the penultimate group and was ahead on the 18th green when he saw Pereira hit his drive in the water. Zalatoris knew his par putt at 18 would be a must-make in order to get into what would likely be a playoff. Zaltoris rolled in the eight-footer to match Thomas in the clubhouse at 5-under par.
“I will bottle that putt on 18 for the future,” Zalatoris said after his round.
Zalatoris and Thomas returned to the par-5,13th for the first of a 3-hole aggregate playoff to determine the PGA Champion. It was the first playoff at the PGA Championship since 2011. After both made birdie at the 13th hole they headed to the par 4 17th.
Thomas was the first to play and drove the reachable par 4 to give himself a long putt for eagle. Zalatoris came up short with his drive and on the edge of the rough short of the greenside bunker. Zalatoris missed his putt for birdie to the right of the hole and Thomas two-putted from long range to take the advantage with one hole to play. The pair played their final hole at the par 4 18th, where Thomas once again two-putted from 20 feet for his second major title.
“Hey, I'll play those holes at 1-under any day of the week and J.T. happened to play in two. I hit a great putt on 17. We just under read it,” Zalatoris said about the playoff. “Hats off to J.T. He's been due for a while to get another win, let alone a major. So, excited for him.”
Zalatoris has good vibes not just for Thomas but the other players who he was battling down the stretch on Sunday as they were all players that Zalatoris grew up playing with. Zalatoris has known Thomas since they were 13-years-old competing in AJGA events and he roomed with his playing partner on Sunday, Cameron Smith, when the pair were in college together at Wake Forest University. Zalatoris, Young, and Pereira were also part of the same Korn Ferry Tour class to graduate to the PGA Tour.
“It's a good added comfort level. I've played with obviously a bunch of world No. 1s and to me, it's the same but you know, playing with a buddy and being able to crack jokes and especially since we have all known each other for seven, eight years, so it was a lot of fun.”
Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth are among a group of players that Zalatoris grew up playing against. They’ve both won major championships, which has become a common theme amongst the players Zalatoris has surrounded himself with.
Before Zalatoris’ family moved from San Francisco to Dallas, his father often brought him around California Golf Club. Inside the clubhouse, they celebrated longtime member, Ken Venturi, with a shrine to his U.S. Open victory. Zalatoris also remembers the club displaying memorabilia of Ben Hogan, who was winner of the Career Grand Slam. When his family relocated to Texas, Zalatoris spent time getting to know six-time major champion Lee Trevino and PGA Champion Lanny Wadkins.
Four times a year Zalatoris gets a chance to try and realize his dream of becoming a major champion. While that dream wasn’t realized on Sunday at the PGA Championship, his no-holds-barred attitude that drove him to drain a critical, eight-footer on the 72nd hole to keep that dream alive in the playoff, will be the same attitude that, one day, will also earn Zalatoris a major title.
“I love it. This is what you live for,” Zalatoris said about competing in majors. “I know I'm going to get one. Just a matter of time.”