Willy Z finally on the board with a big PGA Tour W!!!
Crazy that the kid has been around this long and this was actually his first FedEx Cup Playoff Event. Feels like years ago that he made noise at Augusta and nearly made a playoff with Hideki. Guy has been such a stud on Tour since the minute he walked out there and it's ridiculous that he couldn't even play the playoffs last year.
He's been close so many times. Been in multiple playoffs this year (including the PGA against JT) and come up short in both. He's sniffed around that W a bunch of other times too and it felt like it was only a matter of time.
He started off the week with a mediocre 71 where his own fiancee was asking what their plans might be if he didn't make the cut. Fired off a Friday 63 to jump into contention and shut down any thoughts of getting dragged to Home Goods to look at throw pillows. 65 on Saturday and a strong round Sunday led to him having a 10-footer to get himself into another playoff on the 72nd hole.
Cash. Primal roar. Shot at the haters. Absolutely love to see it for Willy Z.
But the fun didn't stop there. Playoff with Sepp Straka was absolutely bananaland.
They played 18 for the first playoff hole, where each made relatively routine pars. Back to the 18th tee for the 2nd playoff hole and both put themselves in serious trouble off the tee.
Zalatoris blocked his right off the cart path into the depths of the woods, and Straka took on the water and tugged it left, bringing himself inches away from the water.
Both took their medicine (including Straka taking a drop because he was so close to the water that he had no stance) and hit their 3rds close to a pin tucked left against the water.
And sure enough, Zalatoris made another clutch par putt and was matched by Straka
Off to a 3rd playoff we went, the treacherous island 11th (as detailed as the best hole in my preview blog)
The 11th did not disappoint.
Both took on the challenging right pin and pushed their shot into trouble…
but only Will Z's was able to hang on. Seriously. Look at the way these two balls bounced off the rocks…
Sometimes golf is a game of luck. It would seem that Will Z caught a break here, but the ball buried itself between the edging of the grass and the rock. It was inside the yellow hazard line, so taking a drop near the green wasn't an option. So Will Z stood over that thing for about 5 minutes and tried to figure out a way to hit it without causing disaster…. INCREDIBLE drama. Don't know if I've been on the edge of my seat like that since Spieth at Royal Birkdale a few years back. This photo says it all.
He eventually (and smartly) gave up and deciding to go back to the drop area to hit his 3rd.
Meanwhile, Sepp Straka had already hit his 3rd from the DZ and flew it long into the back bunker. He had splashed out close to essentially ensure a double bogey 5, which made Zalatoris' situation back in the drop zone a simple proposition.
Hit one tight from about 90 yards and make the bogey putt and the tournament would be his.
And that's exactly what he did.
Like I said, it's been a long time coming for the kid. He's played well enough to have already won multiple times on Tour, but kept getting beat down the stretch. Sometimes by fault of his own (Torrey Pines earlier this year), others by the brilliance by his peers (JT at Southern Hills). But the one thing he was able to prove at Southern Hills was that he could make a big time putt, and he did that when he made the putt to get into the playoff. You better believe he drew on that on the 72nd green today, and the 74th one as well. When the opportunity was there to take a trophy outright on the 75th hole, he took it.
Clutch clutch clutch.
Great W for Willy Z. Plenty more where that came from.
PS: Will and his caddie split last week. Absolutely TOUGH L for that guy and what a way to kick things off for his new looper
PPS: buy a shirt