Win or bust for Will Zalatoris at the Wyndham Championship

The 24-year-old needs a win to make the FedExCup Playoffs despite having been one of the players of the 2020/21 season.

In an ordinary world, Will Zalatoris would be primed to end his first season on the PGA Tour with a race to the finish line in the FedExCup Playoffs.

He has, after all, ticked off eight top 10 finishes including a dazzling solo second on debut at the Masters.

By any measure his has been an astounding introduction to the top level of the game.

Trouble is, he's playing with Special Temporary Member status (a quirk of 2020 Covid-confusion and red tape) which leaves him ineligible for the Playoffs.

"It's win or go home," he said ahead of this week's Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club. "Second means as much as missing a cut, so I've got nothing to lose."

The good news is that the Californian has strong ties with the area having been an Arnold Palmer Scholar at nearby Wake Forest University.

"When we came in on Sunday night, my fiance and I walked around the campus," he explained. "That's where I met her, so obviously this place is near and dear to the heart.

"We went to all of our favourite restaurants yesterday and relived a lot of really cool memories. I had a really great time here. Every time I come back, it's almost spiritual in a weird way.

"The golf team came to Sedgefield a little bit and I played a junior event here so I've probably logged 15, 20 rounds here."

The bad news is that, despite finishing tied eighth last week at TPC Southwind, the injury he picked up hitting from the rough at Royal St George's in July remains stiff and sore.

"I'm doing okay," he said before adding: "It's still a pretty big effort every day to get moving. I've got to thank Damon Goddard, my trainer because it was 50/50 I was playing last week. I hadn't touched a golf club since the British at that point.

"I'm not really getting off my right side. When you see the distances I'm hitting balls, you're thinking, 'Oh, he's fine', but I'm hanging on my back foot and hitting a really high draw.

"It's one of those things where I'm just going to keep listening to my body in terms of future plans. But if I don't win this week, as a backup plan definitely looking at going to Europe."

Can Zalatoris contend this week?

He missed the cut at Sedgefield back on debut in 2018, but he's a very different golfer now, the top 10 last week was impressive and the incentive is huge.

The course is not one that needs attacking from the tee which ought to help with his injury, but talk of daily stiffness has to be a concern.

Let's see what else Zalatoris had to say.

On caddie Ryan Goble

"Really cool story about Ryan. When I won in Colorado (on the Korn Ferry Tour), I left a birdie putt on 15, a very gettable par-5, on the lip. Ryan could tell I was frustrated. We get to the 16th tee and it's like a par-3 down the hill with a false front and I'm pacing off the yardage. I'm like, 'I've got 122.' He said, 'Pace it off again.' I'm looking at him like, 'You've got to be kidding me. I'm trying to win a golf tournament. You've got a different number?' And I walk it off again and I get 122. I look at him and he's smiling and I knew immediately that he was getting me to slow down and take a moment. Don't press and make a mistake. It was a really good little mind trick he played on me. I hit the shot to 8-feet, made birdie, we ended up winning the tournament by one."

On playing well in the Majors

"I love tougher golf courses that need precise ball striking. Torrey Pines is one of my favourite golf courses on Tour and it really irked me that I didn't play well there. But my first top 10 on Tour was sixth at the U.S. Open, so I knew I could contend and knew I could play with the tougher fields on the tougher courses. A lot of self-belief there. At Kiawah, that's another good example, on 17 there's no bail-out, you've just got to step up and hit a good golf shot. There's a lot of that when it comes to the Majors."

On his new putter

"I had the old putter for about two years. I had a bunch of lead tape on the bottom of it and it eventually started to come off. The guys at Scotty Cameron found a new one that I really like. Love the feel off the face, I just get immediate feedback. I was starting to lose that a little bit with my putter. It's been a great switch."

READ MORE: Punter's pointers: The Wyndham Championship

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