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Despite falling just short of notching his maiden major — and Tour — victory, Will Zalatoris still experienced a first at Southern Hills.
Before losing in a playoff to Justin Thomas, Zalatoris was one threesome ahead of the super group that included Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods during Rounds 1 and 2 of the PGA Championship
Zalatoris said that was the first time he ever got to watch Woods inside the ropes. With Southern Hills "so tight and intimate” — tee boxes cross over other holes throughout the course — the 25-year-old had to frequently stop play. But going against the advice of other Tour pros, he kept his eye on Woods.
"You've heard the vets say, 'Hey, just don't watch him, you play your own game,’ and it's like, 'Come on, this is the first time I get to see him really play in person and see the crowds,'" Zalatoris said Wednesday at Colonial, which is hosting the Charles Schwab Challenge this week. "The crowds Thursday-Friday I thought were bigger than Saturday-Sunday, at least in my groups. It was nuts. I played a practice round in front of him Wednesday and it was 35 people deep on [hole eight]. It was just absurd."
Full-field tee times from Charles Schwab Challenge
Wanamaker or not, that's something Zalatoris will take with him forever.
"Being able to just appreciate those moments (watching Woods) and kind of just be present and enjoy it, that's why, to me, I almost had to — it almost felt like I [have] imposter syndrome where I look back on it and go, 'Wait, you were in a playoff for the PGA Championship?'"
That wasn't the first time Zalatoris has been close to major glory, though. He finished runner-up at the 2021 Masters. However, he will take the lessons from his latest close call, plus watching Woods, and try to finally breakthrough at the year's next major
"Like I've mentioned before, my career goal is to win a major, and now the prep starts for the U.S. Open," Zalatoris said.