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Will Zalatoris, following sudden death of a family member, moving in ‘right direction’ after Genesis Invitational

February 19th, 2024

LOS ANGELES — Will Zalatoris was incredibly emotional walking up to the clubhouse at Riviera Country Club on Sunday afternoon.

Now that The Genesis Invitational was finally behind him, the 27-year-old started tearing up.

“I didn’t say anything all week, but I … sorry,” Zalatoris started, before pausing for a very long time while trying to get the words out. “I lost a family member on Thursday, so she was with me all week … It was very unexpected. This whole week was for her.”

Zalatoris, who finished in a tie for , didn’t get into specifics about the loss he and his family experienced. But the pain was evident. That’s what made what happened to him on Friday even more special.

Zalatoris hit his second professional hole-in-one on Friday morning at the par-3 14th. The ace sparked a wild celebration on the tee box between him and his caddie, who .

“Pretty special to make the hole-in-one Friday after I found out on Thursday,” he said. “She was with me all week.”

Will Zalatoris finished in a tie for second at Riviera Country Club on Sunday afternoon, three shots behind winner Hideki Matsuyama

Will Zalatoris finished in a tie for second at Riviera Country Club on Sunday afternoon, three shots behind winner Hideki Matsuyama. (Ben Jared/PGA Tour/Getty Images)

Will Zalatoris: ‘We’re in the right direction’

Despite the emotional battle Zalatoris was working through behind the scenes, he played incredible golf this week in Southern California.

Zalatoris, after a 6-under 65 on Saturday earned him a spot in the penultimate group, entered the final round two shots back of Patrick Cantlay. He openedwith a birdie at the first and was 1-under when he made the turn on Sunday, too, but he just couldn’t keep up with to win the event. Zalatoris’ finish earned him a $1.8 million check.

While he was stopped just short, it was only Zalatoris’ fourth tournament back on Tour after he . He missed several months in 2022 due to two herniated discs, and the injury kept lingering into 2023 before it finally became too much for him to handle at Augusta National. He withdrew from the Masters in April just after his back gave out, and he didn’t make his return until the Sony Open last month.

“Every week I’ve been getting better, so I know I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing,” Zalatoris said. “I’ve got a lot of silver in my house, so getting another second place doesn’t really sit that well, but obviously coming back from what I had to go through physically, you know, we’re in the right direction.”

After his surgery, Zalatoris had to slowly rebuild his back strength. While doing the basics, like just walking up and down the stairs at his house, he actually went back to Wake Forest to finish up his college degree and then eventually traveled a bit with his family once he was physically able to. He hit some bucket list items, he said, like hitting Wimbledon with his wife.

Eventually, he was able to get back on the range, and start practicing again. After playing at the Hero World Challenge in December, Zalatoris missed the cut at the Sony Open in January. He entered this week on a sponsor’s exemption and made just his fourth start back.

“I was impatient from about April to December, there’s no question about that,” he said. “I’m definitely ahead of the curve in terms of the speed, where my game’s at. It’s just little things.”

Zalatoris has just one win in his career on the PGA Tour. He won the 2022 FedEx St. Jude Championship, and had nine other top-10 finishes that season. Three of those were runner-up finishes, which includes a playoff loss at the PGA Championship and a second-place finish at the U.S. Open, and a T6 finish at the Masters. Before the back injury knocked him out, Zalatoris was right there.

Now that this week is in the books, Zalatoris has more than proven to himself that he can still compete at a high level after the surgery. It’s just going to take a bit more practice, which he has plenty of time for before a return trip to Augusta National in April.

“The goal today, this is really good preparation for the majors coming up,” Zalatoris said. “It’s nice to be able to work on these changes when I’m in contention, you know, fully commit to what I’m doing … But like I said, I’m headed in the right direction and week by week I’ve obviously been getting better, I’m getting more and more comfortable.”

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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