BROOKLINE, Mass. — As his putt approached the outlet on the 18th inexperienced on Sunday night, Will Zalatoris thought he was headed to an exhilarating playoff that will decide the U.S. Open champion. All of the ball needed to do was drop and Zalatoris and Matt Fitzpatrick would settle issues in a two-hole playoff.
“With about six ft to go, I believed I had it,” Zalatoris mentioned. He had checked his cellphone earlier and seen what Paul Azinger, the NBC golf analyst and former PGA Tour professional, had been saying. “That everybody missed that putt excessive,” Zalatoris added.
“He continued, ‘I used to be the closest one all day. I used to be, like, ‘thanks for the comfort prize.’”
Zalatoris is turning into painfully aware of comfort prizes. Final month, he misplaced the P.G.A. Championship to Justin Thomas in a playoff at Southern Hills in Tulsa. He completed second to Hideki Matsuyama within the 2021 Masters, simply seven months faraway from the Korn Ferry Tour. And now, one other second place end in one other main.
“It stings clearly to have three runners-up thus far in my profession in majors,” he mentioned. “We’re clearly doing the correct issues. I’d pay some huge cash for about an inch and a half, and I’d most likely be a three-time main champion at this level. We’ll simply hold doing what we’re doing.”
Zalatoris can look to the good Ben Hogan for historic comparability. Hogan was repeatedly labeled a bridesmaid for his lack of ability to win a serious all through the early and mid Nineteen Forties. He misplaced a playoff to Byron Nelson on the 1942 Masters after main by three pictures. He misplaced an opportunity at a playoff within the 1946 Masters when he three-putted from 12 ft, lacking a 30-inch putt.
“It simply wasn’t my time to win,” Hogan advised The New York Instances. “Nonetheless, there’s one other yr coming.” Two months later, on the U.S. Open exterior Cleveland, he once more three-putted on the 72nd gap, lacking one other brief putt and falling out of a playoff received by Lloyd Mangrum. However later that yr, he received the P.G.A. Championship, the primary of his 9 majors.
The distinction is that not like Hogan, who had established himself as one of many recreation’s premier gamers by constantly successful different tournaments, Zalatoris continues to be searching for his first victory on the PGA Tour. The consensus is that Zalatoris’s placing — notably the brief putt — is his Achilles’ heel. Although he putted comparatively properly on the Nation Membership — till he missed that birdie on the final gap within the last spherical — he entered the match ranked one hundred and sixtieth on the tour in placing.
Requested what he thought when he noticed Zalatoris line up a putt, Collin Morikawa mentioned, “I pray for him. I imply, look, I’m not going to beat across the bush. I’ve mentioned it since faculty, something exterior of that 8- to 10-foot zone, I imply, it’s as easy as anybody else’s stroke.”
And inside 10 ft?
“We’ve seen some squirrelly putts,” Morikawa mentioned. “Not that I’m the most effective putter and I’ve had that little squirreliness too, however I believe all of us type of get on our toes after we see it.”
Zalatoris had no bother successful earlier than he arrived on the PGA Tour. He received the 2014 U.S. Junior Newbie championship. At Wake Forest, he was an All-American and ACC Participant of the 12 months. He twice received the Trans-Mississippi Newbie championship. He was on the victorious 2017 U.S. Walker Cup group, which additionally featured Scottie Scheffler, who tied with Zalatoris for second place on Sunday, and Morikawa, who completed tied for fifth.
This season, along with three second-place finishes on the majors, Zalatoris has completed second to Luke Checklist in a playoff on the Farmers Insurance coverage Open. He tied for sixth on the Masters, fourth on the Zurich Traditional and fifth on the Memorial Event.
His world rating has climbed to twelfth and he’s ranked eighth within the FedEx Cup standings. No golfer ranked that prime or increased has executed so with out at the least one victory.
Sunday’s end result on the Nation Membership was Zalatoris’s seventh top-10 end in 12 occasions this yr. He has completed within the high 10 in six of the eight majors through which he has performed. It’s a powerful document — minus a obvious gap, or three.
“It’s simply little issues,” mentioned Zalatoris, who turns 26 in August. “It’s not the identical factor at each single one. We’re speaking inches. It’s not like I completed runner-up by 4 or 5 just a few instances. It’s been one for all three. So I’ve simply bought to maintain doing what I’m doing. I’ve bought to maintain knocking on the door as a result of ultimately — like I mentioned earlier, the consolation degree is there.”
After Zalatoris had dissected his spherical and his ongoing battle to lastly crack the winner’s circle, he obtained a parting reward from the US Golf Affiliation: a silver medal for coming in second.