Zalatoris: “I’m going to get one sooner rather than later”

John Craven
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Will Zalatoris after another Major near-miss (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Three-time runner-up Will Zalatoris believes he just needs to keep putting himself in position and he’ll eventually convert a maiden Major title after his latest near-miss at the U.S. Open.

Out in the final group alongside Matt Fitzpatrick, both players broke 70 as they went in search of their first Major title but it was the Englishman who went one shot better; a final round 68 at Brookline enough for Fitzpatrick to claim the win by a shot at six-under from Zalatoris and world number one Scottie Scheffler.

“I think this one probably is going to take a little bit more processing than that one,” Zalatoris said when asked if his Country Club heartache felt different to the PGA at Southern Hills.

“Like I said, I’ve got no regrets. I thought I played great all week, especially getting off to the start that I did today.

“It stings obviously. Obviously to have three runner-up’s so far in my career in majors, but keep knocking on that door. We’re obviously doing the right things.

“I’d pay a lot of money for about an inch and a half, and I’d probably be a three-time major champion at this point. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.”

The inch and a half Zalatoris refers to relates to how close he has come on the final green at golf’s biggest events. On Sunday night in Boston, he gave himself a putt to force a playoff and he hit a good one; a putt that did everything but drop as it grazed the edge on the high side of the final hole.

“With about six feet to go, I thought I had it,” Zalatoris admitted.

“I was just checking my phone earlier, and a bunch of people were saying that Zinger [Paul Azinger –  NBC pundit] had said that everyone missed that put high. I was the closest one all day. I was, like, thanks for the consolation prize!”

With Scheffler in the clubhouse at five-under, playing the 72nd hole, Zalatoris felt like the fate of the title had turned into a straight match play situation between himself and Fitzpatrick. Although the Englishman held a one-shot advantage, he found the bunker from the tee and was deep enough into it that the face was a factor. Meanwhile, Zalatoris had striped his drive down the middle. Then Fitzpatrick pulled off a shot from the sand that Zalatoris predicts will be shown in U.S. Open highlight reels for years to come.

“At that point, you have to assume that he’s going to hit that shot. When he pulled it off, tip your cap, well done. Now I have to make birdie and hope he misses,” Zalatoris said.

“I painted that shot right over the flagstick and just hit it a little deep. That golf shot was 1 in 20, at best. To pull it off in that situation is incredible.

“He had to cut it around kind of an island of rough in the middle of that bunker. Probably — I don’t know how far he had. I’d say roughly around 160, 170.

“So he’s probably hitting a 7- or a 6-iron and opening it up, carving it off probably left edge of the green. And to get it to be just past pin high, like I said, the fact he had a look was just awesome.

“When they show the highlights of future U.S. Opens, that’s one that’s going to be shown because that was just incredible.”

When Zalatoris picked himself up off his hunkers as his birdie putt to force a playoff slipped by, and when the formalities were through, he made his way to Fitzpatrick’s parents who were standing by the 18th green.

“If I had to lose to anyone, I’m happy it was your son,” he said. And that’s the mark of the man.

Still only 25, Zalatoris plays the game the right way and one has to think his day in the sun is just around the corner. Who knows, it might even come at the Home of Golf at next month’s 150th Open?

“That is going to be obviously incredibly special being at St. Andrews for the 150th, he said. “I think letting this one soak in, take a few days off, might even take the whole week off and just kind of recover and then kind of get my mind back into it.

“This one hurts in particular pretty hard, but it’s motivating. I’ve got to keep doing what I’m doing. I know I’m going to get one sooner or later.”

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