With 11 consecutive 1-putts, Will Zalatoris puts himself into position at Memorial to knock on victory’s door again

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DUBLIN, Ohio – New town, different tournament, same story.

That has become the story for Will Zalatoris, who once again put himself into contention to win his first PGA Tour title Thursday in the opening round of The Memorial at Muirfield Village Golf Club.

Zalatoris, who is the highest-ranked player in the world (No. 14) who does not have a Tour title, lost in a three-hole, aggregate score playoff two weeks ago to Justin Thomas in the PGA Championship and lost in a playoff earlier this year to Luke List at the Farmers insurance Open.

Not one to sulk – he missed the cut last week in the Charles Schwab Challenge – Zalatoris picked himself up and made eight birdies on Jack Nicklaus’ gem that had been softened by overnight rain and shot 4-under 68.

He’s one shot behind the clubhouse lead.

“Crazy. Making eight birdies around this place obviously is really nice,” Zalatoris said. “I was just saying earlier before I came out here, Monday, Tuesday, if you said I was going to shoot 68 in the first round, I thought it would be four birdies, no bogeys. I’m shocked at how this place has softened up, with the weather we’ve had, because Monday and Tuesday were probably one of the firmer practice rounds I think I’ve had in my short stint out here.

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“I guess it feels like Augusta. When you get out there Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, it’s crazy firm. All of a sudden greens keep the same pace, but they soften up a little bit.”

Atop the leaderboard is the foursome of List, Cameron Young, K.H. Lee and Cameron Smith. Young, who has five top-3 finishes this season, also is looking for his first PGA Tour title. List and K.H. Lee won their first Tour titles earlier this year. Smith won the 2022 Players Championship.

“If I can hit the driver well, I’m going to put myself in a lot of places where not only do I have a chance to make birdie but it’s hard to make a bogey,” said Young, who was ranked in the 500s a year ago before winning consecutive tournament on the Korn Ferry Tour and staring so well on the PGA Tour. He’s now ranked 30th.

“I think we knew what was possible, but I think I’ve also gotten a lot better throughout this season. I think I’m continuing to figure out how to play professional golf better,” Young added. “I think I’m learning what I can and can’t do. And having done well, I think, makes it a lot easier. If I was really fighting to keep my card for next year, I think it gets a lot harder. To have been around the lead and then finish high a few times, I think, just that comfort level has gone up and I’ve been able to keep going, doing what I’ve been doing.”

After watching Thomas hoist the Wanamaker Trophy, Zalatoris told the assembled media he knew he was going to win a Tour title and it was just a matter of time.

Well, that time could be this week, especially if he continues to putt like he did in the first round. After starting on the 10th with a bogey, Zalatoris had 11 consecutive 1-putt greens, a stretch that included seven birdies.

He had 24 putts.

“I made some nice par saves to keep the momentum going and had a couple of bonuses in there with a couple of 20-footers,” he said. “Pretty pleased where my game is at but need to drive a little better the next few days.”

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Check the yardage book: Muirfield Village for the PGA Tour's Memorial Tournament