'This One Stings' - Will Zalatoris On US Open Heartbreak

The 25-year-old admitted his hurt after his third Major runner-up finish

Will Zalatoris saw his birdie putt at the final hole of the US Open just miss, and with it went his hopes of forcing a playoff with Matt Fitzpatrick
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Will Zalatoris has admitted how much it hurt finishing as joint US Open runner-up to Matt Fitzpatrick, a feeling he is determined to use as motivation to get over that hump to claim his first Major win.

The 25-year-old has now finished second three times in just over a year at Majors - each time by just one stroke - but he is adamant that a big win is coming.

“This one hurts in particular pretty hard, but it's motivating,” he said after seeing his birdie putt on the 18th just trundle past the hole rather than in to force a playoff. “I've got to keep doing what I'm doing. I know I'm going to get one sooner or later. To have three runner-ups so far in my career in Majors, we're obviously doing the right things. I'd pay a lot of money for about an inch and a half, and I'd probably be a three-time Major champion at this point. We'll just keep doing what we're doing. I think this one probably is going to take a little bit more processing. It stings obviously.”

Zalatoris was two shots clear on the back nine at The Country Club in Brookline but eventually had to settle for a tied-second finish with World No.1 Scottie Scheffler as Fitzpatrick kept his cool to clinch his first Major. That meant that after losing in a playoff to Justin Thomas in last month’s PGA Championship, and coming second to Hideki Matsuyama at the Masters last year, the former Wake Forest standout finished one shot short again.

“I battled all week,” said the World No.12. “This week my driving was atrocious. I think part of that might have had a little bit to do with the hip. The fact that how bad I drove it this week, to have a chance to win, I'm very pleased with. I battled like crazy. Obviously, you say that about every US Open round you play, but considering where I drove it today, the fact I was even under par was obviously pretty nice.”

Zalatoris had his problems driving all week, ranking 40th in shots gained off the tee (Fitzpatrick ranked second and Scheffler fourth for comparison). His putting kept him in with a chance, and at the final hole of the championship, needing a birdie to force a playoff, it looked like he’d pulled it off.

“I thought I made a lot of nice putts just to keep myself in it,” he said. “Stealing one on nine, saving par on 13. I really felt great with the putter all week, and I hit a great putt on 18. With about six feet to go, I thought I had it. It just happened to hang out there.”

As the final pair played the final hole, it looked like the Englishman may have opened the door for Zalatoris after a wayward tee shot. Fitzpatrick drove it into a fairway bunker, his ball nestling in an awkward spot with an island in the bunker obstructing his route to the green. A dropped shot would mean Zalatoris just needed a par to force a three-way playoff, but Fitzpatrick produced a moment of magic to find the green and eventually secure the par needed to clinch the title.

“Matt's shot on 18 is going to be shown probably for the rest of US Open history,” said Zalatoris. “I walked by it, and I thought that going for it was going to be ballsy, but the fact that he pulled it off and even had a birdie look was just incredible. He had to cut it around kind of an island of rough in the middle of that bunker. He's probably hitting a 7- or a 6-iron and opening it up, carving it off probably left edge of the green. And to get it to be just past pin high, like I said, the fact he had a look was just awesome. That golf shot was one in 20, at best. To pull it off in that situation is incredible. So hats off to him. He played great all week obviously and gave a solid round today.”

For Zalatoris, a week of rest is on the cards before he looks to cast off that ‘always the bridesmaid’ label he has picked up so quickly in his fledgling career at the 150th Open Championship at St Andrews next month.

“I'm not happy with finishing second,” he said. “It's not like I'm trying to coax that down there. I'm obviously trying to make it. The comfort level is there, especially now that I know I can do this. I just have to keep waiting my turn. I guess I've got to just keep doing what I'm doing. It's just little things. It's not the same thing at every single one. We're talking inches. It's not like I finished runner-up by four or five a few times. It's been one for all three. So I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing. I've got nothing to lose out here. So let's just keep doing what we're doing and eventually we're going to get one.”

Jeff Kimber
Jeff Kimber

Jeff graduated from Leeds University in Business Studies and Media in 1996 and did a post grad in journalism at Sheffield College in 1997. His first jobs were on Slam Dunk (basketball) and Football Monthly magazines, and he's worked for the Sunday Times, Press Association and ESPN. He has faced golfing greats Sam Torrance and Sergio Garcia, but on the poker felt rather than the golf course. Jeff's favourite course played is Sandy Lane in Barbados, which went far better than when he played Matfen Hall in Northumberland, where he crashed the buggy on the way to the 1st tee!