McKINNEY, Texas — When Will Zalatoris was wrapping up his second Texas high school golf championship in the spring of 2013, a fresh-faced Jordan Spieth — who also hails from the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex – had just been given Special Temporary Member status on the PGA Tour as a reward for top-7 finishes in Puerto Rico and at the Tampa Bay Championship.
Just a month later, another Dallas golfer — Scottie Scheffler — won the 2013 US Junior Amateur Championship.
Fast forward to a year later, and Zalatoris captured the 2014 US Junior Amateur Championship at the Club at Carlton Woods, a course just a few hours to the southwest near Houston.
And moving ahead a few nights in the time machine, Zalatoris was given the Special Temporary Member status in 2020 after posting top-8 showings at the US Open and the Corales Puntacana Championship.
See a pattern starting to form? When Spieth and/or Scheffler do something, Zalatoris seems soon to follow.
This only makes one wonder if the skinny blonde who played his college golf at Wake Forest is due for a Texas-sized heater that rivals those Spieth and Scheffler have previously enjoyed. In Spieth’s case, the spans have been numerous and spread out. In Scheffler’s case, the fire is still raging.
And while Zalatoris is playing some spectacular golf — he’s finished in the top half-dozen spots in five of his last eight tournaments if you count the team event in New Orleans — he’s yet to break through with a win on Tour. Of course, Scheffler was in the same boat just a few short months ago.
Will Zalatoris plays his shot from the second tee during the first round of the 2021 AT&T Byron Nelson golf tournament. Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
So could this week’s home game at TPC Craig Ranch, where Zalatoris says he’s played 35 rounds over the years, finally help get him in the Tour’s winner’s circle?
And if he cracks that goose egg at the AT&T Byron Nelson, could it springboard him to major-winner status next week at Southern Hills in Tulsa?
“I’ve been playing some really nice golf over the last month, month and a half. I really have been putting nicely over the last, really going back to Match Play,” Zalatoris said of the event in Austin where he reached the quarterfinals before losing to Kevin Kisner. “I feel like every part of my game is really doing well and I just have to let the win get in the way. I’ve put in a lot of hard work with Josh Gregory and Troy Dunn, especially over the last month and a half, and it’s paid off and I just have to stay patient.
“Obviously, watching guys — like Scottie — going on an absolute tear, he had to kind of wait his turn for a few years and then once the gates opened now it seems like every event he tees up he’s winning. So I’ve just got to keep waiting for my turn and I know I’m playing some really nice golf and I know my best golf’s only ahead of me this year.”
All the stats indicate Zalatoris is ready to put a significant stream together. He’s 11th off the tee this season and second in Strokes Gained: Approaching the Green. If he shores up some of the putting woes that have plagued him (he currently sits at 170th in that vital stat), it’s almost certain the victories will follow.
And it’s not just Scheffler who is providing motivation. Will Z has been surrounded by good players for as long as he can remember.
“It kind of goes back to even on our Walker Cup team, eight out of the 10 guys are on the PGA Tour right now and at one point I think three guys had won either on Tour or on the Korn Ferry Tour, and I didn’t ‘t have status anywhere,” he said. “So if anything it was motivating because I knew I could do what they were doing, I just had to kind of keep plugging along.
“But at the same time, the part that I love so much about Scottie is he’s just such a good dude. And it tastes like vinegar coming out of my mouth, considering the amount of golf we play together, because I love him to death, it’s really cool to see. And obviously playing the games at home together and him playing well and even the other day I thought I played pretty good at a little event we played here at home, shoot 66 and he comes in with 63 and it’s like … good grief, man, like have an off-day.”