BROOKLINE, Mass. – Will Zalatoris was short again, and this time he thought he had.
After missing a 14-foot bird strike on the 18th hole that would put him in the playoffs with winner Matt Fitzpatrick, Zalatoris could not help but sigh as he was awarded a silver medal for second place at the US Open on Sunday. He talked to the media while the screens showed Fitzpatrick lifting the trophy, and then Zalatoris left with a forced smile. He had to leave the stage to let the champion pass.
“This is particularly painful,” said Zalatoris, who now has six places in the top 10 in nine big starts, including three other places. “Three bullets got me out of being practically – to have a chance to be a three-time big champion. Bouncing here or there.”
The 25-year-old entered Sunday without a major win or PGA Tour win, but with a lot of confidence. On Saturday, he said that his recent second place in the playoffs against Justin Thomas at this year’s PGA Championship gave him the belief that he could be one of the best players in the world. But faith could not push his blow a few inches closer to the hole.
“With about six feet to go, I thought I had,” Zalatoris said of his shot. “Obviously they sting. Have three runners-up so far in their career in the major categories.”
Zalatoris came in on Sunday, tied for the lead with Fitzpatrick. Zalatoris struggled early, making two bogeymen on the first five holes before his always elusive pitcher caught fire. He threw in four of the next six holes and, at one point, had a 2-shot advantage over Fitzpatrick.
“I fought like crazy,” Zalatoris said, calling his ride “horrible” during the week and adding that he had a hip problem. The usual problems of the Masters 2021 runner-up come with his pitcher, but as he said with a smile on Sunday, his throw was just fine.
“I’m sure all the morons on Instagram will say it has something to do with lowering the left wrist flexion,” Zalatoris said of the blow to 18. “I promise you, it has nothing to do with it.”
Zalatoris made two costly mistakes in the back nine. On the 12th hole, he missed the fairway and had to hit, which led to 2 times for the gods. 15. he missed the waterway again. Fitzpatrick did too, but he missed it so much that he had a better lie than Zalatoris, who was in the rough. Fitzpatrick is a bird. Zalatoris bogeied. The lead was then 2 in favor of Fitzpatrick.
On par-3 16th, Zalatoris made the bird sit 1 back. But when Fitzpatrick saved his wrong drive by finding a bunker with a perfect iron shot in the 18th green, the pressure returned to Zalatoris, who later called Fitzpatrick’s approach kick “1 in 20”.
“I knew very well that Will would hit close,” said Fitzpatrick. “He is one of the players with the best approach on the tour.
Zalatoris hit just 15 feet. Fitzpatrick bet with 2 for a pair, so Zalatoris knew what he had to do. As he hit the ball and watched it leak next to the hole without falling, Zalatoris was the one who fell to his knees in agony. The champion is determined.
“Have you already asked me how nervous you were on the way to 18?” Said Zalatoris. “Like I have nothing to lose. Either he comes in or he doesn’t.”
Even after a heavy defeat, Zalatoris showed confidence, saying he had a recipe for victory. With less than a month until the next competition – the Open Championship in St. Andrews – Zalatoris said that he is glad that he will be able to try again soon.
“I’m not happy that I finished second,” he said. “Obviously I’m trying to succeed. The level of comfort is there, especially now that I know I can do this. I just have to wait my turn.”
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