Will Zalatoris quest for first PGA Tour win heads to Sanderson Farms Championship

The 2020/21 Rookie of the Year got his Sophomore season off to a smart start and now wants to push on.

The last two years have been pretty good for Will Zalatoris.

He started 2020 on the Korn Ferry Tour, aware that he was yet to come even close to logging the results his amateur career had hinted at.

But when he finally arrived on the scene he did so in style, landing 14 top 20 finishes in 16 starts on the second tier, including victory in the TPC Colorado Championship.

By mid-September he had earned himself a crack at the PGA Tour and also a spot at the US Open. Indeed, the delayed Major would mark his entry into the big time.

And he delivered again, landing solo sixth at Winged Foot behind Bryson DeChambeau.

It was a sign of things to come as the 25-year-old appeared entirely unfazed by the prospect of taking on the best in the world.

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The wave he had caught early that year swept him through the Fall campaign and on into the summer of 2021.

His first 19 starts of the season reaped 13 top 25 finishes.

But better than that, that opening effort in the US Open was merely the first example of him thriving in elite company.

There were early season strong efforts at Major venues Torrey Pines and Riviera, he also performed well on his WGC debut at The Concession and in THE PLAYERS.

In early April he very nearly became the first debutant to win the Masters since 1979, eventually having to settle for solo second. A few weeks later he landed a third Major Championship top 10 of the season at Kiawah Island in the PGA Championship.

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Throughout all this success, however, there was a constant fly in the ointment: his putting.

By season's end, he ranked ninth for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, proof of what a superb long game he possesses.

But his awkward putting stance turned out not to be illusory: he ranked 112nd for SG Putting, 140th for Putting Average, 149th for Three Putt Avoidance.

Hope arrived via an unlikely source: an enforced lay-off following an injury he picked up at the Open.

Suddenly his long game had to take a rest, all he could practise was his work on the greens and, together with coach Josh Gregory, he began to suspect something was amiss with his equipment.

Gregory took a credit card to the face and it revealed the problem.

"The insert actually caved in," he told Golf.com. "We put the card up by the face and you could see an indention in the middle of the face."

Armed with a new putter Zalatoris immediately recorded two of his four best SG Putting performances to close out the season.

"I putted awesome," he said and then added, of the post-lockdown quirk that left him unable to compete in the FedExCup Playoffs: "Not playing them is something that's eating at me every day, it's motivating for sure."

He opened the new campaign with T11th at the Fortinet Championship two weeks ago, a week in which his long game was on fire, but the putter had regressed a little.

He needs only to recalibrate a little, however, and he can contend again.

And that's something he'll be keen to return to the habit of because, for all his success, he still has just that one win to show for his consistency and quality.

Can he win at the Country Club of Jackson this week?

Let's take a look at the stats.

What wins at Jackson

All seven winners here, plus the man who lost a play-off in 2019, ranked 11th or better for Putting Average.

Six of seven of them ranked top 10 for Strokes Gained Tee to Green.

Three of the last four winners ranked top 10 for SG Off the Tee.

Is Zalatoris a match?

Here are his 2020/21 season rankings:

Putting Average - 140th

Tee to Green - 9th

Off the Tee - 31st

Conclusion

This week will be a great test of the new Zalatoris. Tee to green the test should be right up his street, but can the new putter turn his winning chances around?

It might be better to hold fire this week and oppose him with Bermuda green specialist Sam Burns.

READ MORE: Sanderson Farms Championship tips: Burns top bet to claim title

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