While Tiger Woods’ imminent return to action at the Hero World Challenge after a lengthy spell on the sidelines is understandably claiming most of the headlines, he’s not the only big name on the verge of a comeback at Albany.
Unlike Woods, Will Zalatoris didn’t even make it as far as his tee time at Augusta National before announcing he had withdrawn from April's Masters before undergoing back surgery.
However, after over half the year out, he will finally play competitively again when he tees it up alongside Jordan Spieth in the first round in the Bahamas. Before turning his thoughts to that, though, Zalatoris reflected on the frustrations of his spell out of the game – and the timing of it.
He said: “It's been an interesting seven months. You know, kind of a golfer's worst nightmare is feeling your back giving out on the driving range at Augusta 30 minutes before your tee time.
“But no, it's been a patience game. It's been a grind, you know. I had a lot of really good advice from guys that have had to go through the same thing and all of them said take your time, no one's ever come back from an injury taking too long.”
Zalatoris also revealed that it’s only in recent months that he has even been able to hit balls again. He continued: “You know, I think I really started hitting balls probably a couple months ago. Really each week has just progressively gotten a little bit better.
“I was on a pretty strict ball count, strict amount of time of how much I could practice. Had to spend a lot of time doing rehab basically six days a week. You know, so it's been - I know way more about the anatomy now than I think I ever really wanted to, but I feel really good right now.”
While being so close to starting The Masters and needing to withdraw was frustrating for Zalatoris, his lay-off also meant he missed the remaining three Majors and the near certainty of a maiden Ryder Cup appearance for the US.
He admitted not having a timeline on a return during his recovery had taken a toll. He said: “Yeah, I think it was more of just the timeline of, you know, you're given basically what I was told was at 12 weeks, structurally you will be at the strongest point that you'll be at, but you'll have to build back up the stability and that could take 12 weeks on top of that, it could take you six.”
Zalatoris, who had been ranked eighth in the world when he had the surgery, and is now down to 33rd, admitted the first step on his way back into contention for the biggest prizes in the game is to simply to get through the Hero World Challenge unscathed.
He said: “I don't have a certain score or place or whatever. It's more of if I put 72 holes together pain free and we're able to take away a lot of things of what I can work on over the next month before I start up for the next year, you know, either way it's a positive.”
'It's Ridiculous - There's No Other Way To Put It'
Zalatoris also paid tribute to Woods’ ability to return from serious injury so often. He said: “It's ridiculous - there's no other way to put it. What he's doing and what he's gone through with his body, especially to come back and win another Major after everything that he had gone through.
“This was my first time really having any sort of surgery in my entire life and going through that recovery process. The fact that he's had to go through so much and still be as good as he is, even up in his late 40s now, still being able to go out and just play in Majors is just - there's no there's no other words to put it besides just putting it in the list of remarkable things that that guy's done in his career.”
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Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories.
He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game.
Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course.
Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.
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