Will Zalatoris wins the second annual TPC Colorado Championship
Steady wins the race.
Will Zalatoris, the 23-year-old San Francisco native turned in a workman-like performance last weekend at the TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes. Zalatoris shot 67-67-70-69 over the four-day event to finish at 15-under and claim his first career victory.
“Finally,” a clearly pleased Zalatoris said before the assembled media after earning the win. “It’s been probably four years since I won a golf tournament. It still hasn’t sunk in.”
It wasn’t quite four years, but it was close. Zalatoris’ last win in any kind of tournament came in 2017, when, as a senior at Wake Forest, he took home first place at the Rod Myers Invitational hosted by Duke University. Entering this week, Zalatoris had been so close, finishing in a tie for sixth, a tie for third and in fourth place in his last three tournaments.
“Just sticking to the processing and trusting it and doing the work, day after day and it’s nice to see it finally pay off … it’s pretty nice,” Zalatoris said. “I think honestly, just a little bit of comfort in the final round. The last two tournaments I was chasing from behind.”
Zalatoris’ performance was enough – just barely – in Saturday’s final round to hold off Chase Johnson, who shot a course record 63 to take second place.
Johnson was nothing short of stellar in Saturday’s final round, carding 10 birdies over the course of 18 holes, shooting 31-32, to post a 14-under and head into the clubhouse with a share of the lead.
“It was fun, I came out today and I was just like ‘it’s kind of all or nothing for my position here’ and I knew I could do it if I could get off to a hot start on that front-nine which I really like I could give myself a shot with the back nine,” Johnson said Saturday afternoon. “I just tried to stay as patient as I could because you can’t force things out here.”
The second-place prize of $54,000 secures Johnson, who entered the week under conditional status, his Korn Ferry Tour card for the remainder of the season. “This is what we all try to do, put ourselves in contention but actually going out on the final round and posting a 63 to give yourself a chance, that’s a huge confidence boost.”
Great as Johnson was, Zalatoris remained unfazed, however, and kept playing his game. A birdie on the signature par-3 16th hole put him one stroke ahead of Johnson.
Two par fours remained. A textbook four on 17 afforded Zalatoris the leeway of having to only make par on 18 to avoid a playoff with Johnson. Zalatoris missed the fairway off the tee and found himself 212 yards out, in the rough. He explained after the round the goal was just to get to within 40-feet, knowing the one spot he couldn’t miss was to the right where a deep bunker lied.
After hitting the approach shot, Zalatoris explained, “I told my caddy, ‘that’s gone,’ I thought it was 30 yards over the green and next thing I know everyone is clapping and I get up there and its 10 feet and it went from very stressful to a stress-less finish.”
His birdie putt skimmed past the top of the cup by a hair. A straight three-footer remained and Zalatoris’ putt hit the cup dead center to clinch the victory.
The win and the $108,000 first-place check that came with it was enough to vault Zalatoris to the top of the Korn Ferry Tour’s money list for the season. In ordinary times, the win at TPC Colorado, along with his three other top-five finishes on the season, would almost assuredly secure Zalatoris a top-25 rank that would give him his PGA Tour card for the 2021 season. But these are far from ordinary times as a result of the havoc wrecked by COVID-19 and the Korn Ferry Tour elected to forgo standings-based promotions this season.
Even still, Zalatoris’ life-long goal of playing on the PGA Tour is far closer to being within reach, given this win and his strong and steady play on the Korn Ferry Tour this year. The cherry on the top? Zalatoris earned a spot to play in the U.S. Open at storied Winged Foot this fall.
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