Will Zalatoris is staying patient, hunt for first win continues at the Arnold Palmer Invitational

The 25-year-old is excited by his return to Bay Hill and memories of a golfer who has impacted on his life and career.

Will Zalatoris is playing the waiting game.

Outsiders might be wondering when he will land his first PGA Tour victory, but the man himself is staying patient.

An eight-time top 10 finisher in his rookie campaign of 2020/21, Zalatoris got off to a slower start this season, but the New Year dawned bright.

He'd spent the break building muscle, emerged hitting the ball further, landed sixth in his first start at The American Express, and then only lost the Farmers Insurance Open in a play off having dominated throughout most of the final round at Torrey Pines.

"I'm probably one of the guys out here that you could put me in the top two or three of 'Hey, when's he going to win?'" he admitted ahead of the first round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. "But my job every week is to get better, and I know the wins are going to get in the way.

"If I keep doing the day-to-day stuff like I have been and keep asking questions of how can I get better, I know the first win will come, and I know that, if I keep putting myself in that position, the more comfortable I'll be.

"I thought last year I really forced myself to play better. This year I've done a much better job of staying patient and trying to get better. Every week is just trying to get better with my golf game, any aspect of it.

"And honestly? Not winning Torrey is going to honestly propel me to win more because I learned so much about myself."

He returns to Bay Hill with high hopes of improving on his T10th on tournament debut last year, not least because he retains good vibes about the state of his golf right now.

"It's feeling pretty good," he said. "I would have loved to come back and play Pebble Beach after Torrey, but unfortunately, Covid hit me. I've been feeling really good. Game's in a pretty good spot. Really the prep for the Masters starts now.

"I'm getting ready in terms of hitting some more draws off the tee. I've been doing a lot of practice on some big sloping putts. It's nice to be playing a difficult golf course this week. Really the next three events I'm going to play leading up to Augusta are some pretty tough golf courses.

"There's no faking it this week."

Zalatoris on being an Arnold Palmer scholar

"It's a huge honour. I was actually telling the story this morning that I was offered it at a junior event and I had no idea what he was talking about. I was thinking, 'Coach, I really appreciate that, but I don't know if an academic scholarship is up my alley.' He said, 'No, it's the Arnold Palmer scholarship, you big dummy.'

"I got a letter from him congratulating me on winning the U.S. Junior and obviously accepting the scholarship. I've got that framed at my parents' house. It was actually pretty cool.

"I always tell people, when you get offered the Arnold Palmer scholarship to go play golf, I think your decision on school is kind of made for you. He's our inspiration in our game. He was the gentleman of our sport. Everyone out here at this tournament this week feels his presence."

Zalatoris on making changes over the winter

"I had a really good off-season. I put on 15 pounds of muscle, adding some length to my driver, which was really crucial. I was really looking forward to getting back to Pebble because in some respects that's kind of the home tournament for me, being born in California and a place that I'd gone to a bunch growing up.

"So I really was looking forward to that week to kind of get some vengeance. Unfortunately, I had to sit on my butt for a week, eat humble pie and watch the tournament."

Zalatoris on the course set up this week

"The rough is as lush as it's been. The greens tend to brown out by Sunday. The part that's funny about this place is it doesn't look that intimidating in terms of the shots that you hit, but one little mistake or one miss-hit, and you're fighting your way to save par. It's one of the fairest tests that we play out on TOUR, in my opinion, just because great shots are always rewarded, but mediocre shots, you're going to have to scramble."

READ MORE: McIlroy cannot understand why Bay Hill have changed course set-up for Arnold Palmer Invitational

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