Will Zalatoris: Insights from his much anticipated maiden victory

Words by
Josh Coles
Will Zalatoris: Insights from his much anticipated maiden victory

No golfer wants to be known as a perennial bridesmaid. Three runners-up finishes, including the US Open and the PGA Championship, alongside six other top-10 finishes this season, not to mention questions about his putting stroke, had plenty wondering when Will Zalatoris would make his breakthrough. "About time," said the relieved FedEx St Jude Championship winner after coming through a drama-packed three-hole playoff. "Considering all the close finishes that I've had this year, it means a lot.”

No-one has doubted Zalatoris' talent with plenty waxing lyrical about his ball striking prowess. But what gave him the edge at TPC Southwind? Let’s dive into his Clippd data from four rounds that have propelled him to the top of the FedEx Cup rankings, to 9th in the OWGR and, finally, into the winners circle.

1. Off The Tee

Despite his slim build, the Californian is very long off the tee. Currently ranked 12th on the PGA Tour for distance, his Average Shot Quality for Off The Tee in Memphis was 118, with an average driving distance of 312 yards. His most impressive display came during round three where he had an Average Shot Quality of 125, hitting 10/14 fairways including one 328-yard fairway finder that resulted in a Shot Quality of 149. By some distance, his weakest OTT performance was on Sunday.

His OTT capabilities were on full show last week

2. Greenside

Zalatoris fluctuated all week — recording a very impressive Average Shot Quality of 138 in the final round but only 88 in round one, where he was two over par at one point on his front nine. In the pressure cooker of Sunday’s round, he hit a total of six shots from inside 50 yards and finished with an Average Proximity to Hole of 3'11" (the PGA Tour Average is 7'10"). His best shot was a 37-yard pitch to 2ft on the 15th hole, which scored 173 for Shot Quality.

Avg Proximity to Hole of 3'11"!

3. Ball Striking

Zalatoris is renowned as an elite ball-striker, a strength that’s underlined by his Total Player Quality for APP being 112 (100 is tour average). On a TPC Southwind course that demands precision iron play, his Average Shot Quality for APP was 114 for the tournament, a big contributing factor in why he dropped shots on only five holes across the four days. His five-under-par 65 on Saturday saw his Average Shot Quality for approach play soar to 125. He hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation and had an Average Proximity to Hole of 18'8" (Tour Average is 38'0"), which set him up for his date with destiny on Sunday.

Round 3 was a ball striking clinic

4. Putting

The 26-year-old’s putting has been a hot topic, especially from short distance, but throughout the tournament it never ventured far from an Average Shot Quality of 105, which equates to the PGA Tour's top-25 in putting. His putter got really hot during a second round 63, which included just 24 putts and 107'11" in Putts Made Distance (Tour Average is 73'2"). This resulted in an Average Shot Quality for PUTT of 115. It begs the question: what are they going to say now?

A Total Putts of 24 contributed massively to his 2nd round 63

5. Clutch

"Here we go again". It was what many were thinking as Zalatoris stood over his 10ft par putt on the 72nd green. Needing to hole it to stay in a tie with Sepp Straka at the top of the leaderboard and likely force a playoff, he poured it in and roared defiantly at his doubters. The putt scored 158 for Shot Quality but for Will Zalatoris it will be hard to put a figure on what that it meant.

The clutch 10ft putt on the 72nd all but cemented his space in the playoff