Will Zalatoris Takes PGA Championship Lead With Bogey-Free Second Round
Will Zalatoris couldn’t believe what Sebastian Munoz was doing at the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Zalatoris was competing in his hometown of Dallas in preparation for the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club. When he arrived at the course Thursday afternoon, he was dumbfounded at Munoz’s opening round, 12-under par 60. What course was Munoz playing?
One week after Zalatoris missed the cut in Dallas, he holds the 36-hole lead at the PGA Championship. What course has Zalatoris been playing? He carded a second-round, bogey-free, 65 to take the outright lead into the weekend at 9-under par.
“I got away with murder a few times today for sure, especially starting off the day hitting the left trees and hitting it to a kick-in,” Zalatoris said about his round after playing in the afternoon wave on Friday. “We lucked out with the draw for sure. I played the last eight holes with not much wind, but take it when you can get it.”
Luck certainly plays a part in major championship success. The luck of the draw is a big one as the players who competed Friday morning endured 30 mph winds but those, like Zalatoris, who competed in the afternoon, enjoyed much calmer conditions that allowed for rounds like his.
“I didn't think it was going to calm down this much. But I've grown up in Texas, so I'm kind of used to this wind,” Zalatoris said about the change in conditions. “Having a day like this afternoon, this is pretty rare for us, to be honest. I know we've got a lot of wind and some weather coming in and a long 36 holes ahead of us.”
Zalatoris has taken a Brooks Koepka-like approach to major championships. Koepka has eight victories on the PGA Tour and half of those are major titles. Between 2017 and 2019 Koepka was always a fixture in major championships, but not so much in regular Tour events. At Southern Hills, Zalatoris is competing in just his eighth major and only his second PGA Championship. But in his seven major appearances, he has four top 10s. He joined the Tour just last season and earned Rookie of the Year honors, but he talks with a maturity well beyond his years.
“I've kind of had an attitude with the majors, especially since the Masters, where I wanted to enjoy the experience as much as I could,” said Zalatoris, who finished runner-up at Augusta in his debut. “I just make sure that after really every single shot I hit, I don't want to say life or death, but make sure I'm fully committed to everything that I do because we only get four of them a year.
Attitude is critical to success in major championships. Scottie Scheffler, who won the season’s first major championship, spoke about finding belief in himself that he could win on the biggest stage in the game. That resonated with Zalatoris, who perhaps hasn’t made it just yet, but he is certainly well on his way.
“Maybe it's a fake-it-till-you-make-it attitude,” Zalatoris said about his success in majors. “I think there's a little bit of the aspect that they're just such golf courses, it allows my ball-striking to do the talking.”
His clubs did much of the talking on Friday as, no doubt, much of the field was in awe of how Zalatoris played his way to the top of the leaderboard, once again, in a major championship. What course was Zalatoris playing? The course where 36-hole leaders win major titles.
It’s happened seven times before at Southern Hills and, if history is any indication, Zalatoris will be the one hoisting the trophy come Sunday.