Will Zalatoris after third place in major

BROOKLINE, Mass. – Will Zalatoris fell short again and this time he thought he had it.

After missing a 14-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have brought him into a playoff with winner Matt Fitzpatrick, Zalatoris could not help but sigh as he got the silver medal for second place. After speaking to the media while the screens showed Fitzpatrick lifting the trophy, Zalatoris walked away with a forced smile. He had to leave the stage to let the master get through.

“Especially this one hurts pretty hard,” said Zalatoris, who now has six top-10 finishes in nine big starts, including three second-place finishes. “I’m three shots away from practically being one – having a chance to become a three – time major champion. A leap here or there.”

The 25-year-old went to the US Open on Sunday without a major win or a PGA Tour victory, but still with a lot of confidence. He had said on Saturday that his recent second-place finish in a playoff game for Justin Thomas at this year’s PGA Championship had given him the belief that he could become one of the best players in the world. But Faith could not push his putt a few inches closer to the hole.

“With about six feet left, I thought I had it,” Zalatoris said of his putt. “It stings, of course. To have three second places so far in my career in majors.”

Zalatoris came out on top on Sunday with Fitzpatrick in the lead. Zalatoris struggled early and made two bogeys on the first five holes before his eternally elusive putter caught fire. He fouled four of the next six holes and at one point had a two-shot lead over Fitzpatrick.

“I was fighting like crazy,” Zalatoris said, calling his driving “cruel” on the week, adding that his hip bothered him. The 2021 Masters second-place usual problems have come with his putter, but as he said with a smile on Sunday, his putting was just fine.

“I’m sure all the Instagram morons will say it has something to do with my left wrist bend coming down,” Zalatoris said of the putt at 18. “I promise you, it has nothing to do with it. “

Zalatoris’ two costly mistakes came on the back nine. On the 12th hole, he missed the fairway and had to punch out, leading to a two-putt for bogey. On the 15th, he missed the fairway again. Fitzpatrick did too, but he missed it so far to the right that he had a better lie than Zalatoris who was in the rough. Fitzpatrick birded. Zalatoris sled. The lead was then two in Fitzpatrick’s favor.

At par-3 16. Zalatoris made a birdie to sit back. But when Fitzpatrick saved his stray drive that found the bunker with a perfect iron shot into the 18th green, the pressure was back on Zalatoris, who afterwards called Fitzpatrick’s approach shots “ballsy” and “1 in 20.”

“I knew Will would hit it hard,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s one of the best entry players on the tour.”

Zalatoris hit it just within 15 feet. Fitzpatrick two-putted for par so Zalatoris knew what to do. When he hit the ball and saw it seep right past the hole without losing, it was Zalatoris who fell to his knees in pain. The champion was decided.

“I’ve already been asked how nervous were you on the putt at 18?” said Zalatoris. “It’s like I have nothing to lose. Either it goes in or it doesn’t.”

Even after a hard loss, Zalatori expected confidence and said he has the recipe for winning. With less than a month until the next major – the open championship in St. Andrews – Zalatoris said he’s glad he can try again soon.

“I’m not happy about being number two,” he said. “Of course I’m trying to make it. The level of comfort is there, especially now that I know I can do this. I just have to keep waiting for my turn.”

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