Where there’s a Will: Zalatoris keen to ‘soak up the history’ at St Andrews

The Open
Will Zalatoris

The bad news for Will Zalatoris is that he is just one step away from completing an unwanted grand slam of runner-up finishes in major championships.

The good news is that he will at least have somewhere welcoming to drown his sorrows if he completes the set in the 150th Open Championship.

“I’ve actually never played St Andrews. I’ll head there early now that I have the weekend off,” Zalatoris said after missing the cut in the Genesis Scottish Open.

“Next week is just going to be such a ridiculously cool experience that I want to soak it in. I’m going to have a lot of friends and family there and I have a friend who is part owner of one of the pubs [The Dunvegan Hotel].

“I just want to soak up the history because I’ve never been there. I had that attitude when I played my first Masters; Monday through Wednesday I was reliving memories of shots hit by other guys, trying to hit Tiger’s chip (on the 16th).

“When I get out there I’ll do my homework. Everyone has told me that when there’s no wind you could argue it is the easiest major championship venue, and when there is wind it can be the hardest major championship venue.

“I’m overly excited. With the record I’ve had in the majors it puts me in a great mental spot.”

That record certainly is remarkable for a player who is yet to win on the PGA Tour, the 25-year-old American recording six top-10s in his last seven completed majors.

It includes finishing runner-up to Hideki Matsuyama on his Masters debut in 2021, losing a play-off to Justin Thomas for the US PGA Championship at Southern Hills in May and finishing joint second behind Matt Fitzpatrick in the US Open at Brookline last month.

His sole Open Championship appearance to date ended after one round due to a back/hip injury suffered hitting a shot out of heavy rough at Royal St George’s.

“It’s a weird calm. I wish I could explain it,” Zalatoris said when asked about the key to his major performances. “The only answer that I can give is that I’ve wanted to win a major my entire career.

Will Zalatoris
Will Zalatoris headed to St Andrews ahead of schedule after missing the cut in the Genesis Scottish Open (Jane Barlow/PA)

“Most guys have the dream of being world number one or whatever, but I was around a lot of major champions growing up and I wanted to sit at that table with them.

“Lee Trevino and Lanny Wadkins have been two really great people to me. Lee at 82 years old is still out hitting golf balls on two of the courses I play on back home and Lanny taught me a lot – I went to high school with his kids.

“Lanny texted me after the PGA and I told him this stings, it hurts. He said ‘well I’ve got eight silver medals so I know how it feels’.

“The fact I have no regrets whenever I go out and play means I can live with it. The PGA was a tough one to swallow because I was right there but, in the US Open, Fitzy went out and got it. That par he made on 18 was just absurd.

“I’ve finished second three times in majors, so of course I want to get over the hump, but as long as I can walk off the golf course after the 72nd hole with no regrets, then that’s all that matters.”

The last Open to be played at St Andrews actually required 76 holes as Zach Johnson defeated Louis Oosthuizen – who himself has completed the runners-up grand slam – and Marc Leishman in a four-hole play-off in 2015.

Oosthuizen had at least lifted the Claret Jug at the same venue five years earlier, while Tiger Woods enjoyed commanding victories on the Old Course in both 2005 and 2000, the latter being the first Open Zalatoris remembers watching, a month before his fourth birthday.

And while he may not have played the Old Course in person, Zalatoris has recorded some amazing scores on the Tiger Woods 2005 computer game.

“I think my best was 48,” Zalatoris added. “But it was forward tees and on the easy level. I think there’s a better chance of shooting 48 over nine holes than 18 this week.”

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