BROOKLINE, Mass. – Will Zlatoris came up short again, and this time he thought he’d made it.
After missing a 14-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole that would have put him in a playoff with winner Matt Fitzpatrick, Zatoris couldn’t help but sigh as he earned the silver medal for second place. After speaking to the media while screens showed Fitzpatrick holding up the trophy, Zatoris walked away with a forced smile. He had to leave the stage to let the champion through.
“This one in particular hurts quite a bit,” said Zatoris, who now has six top 10 finishes in nine major starts, including three second places. “I’m three shots away from having practically a – chance of being a three-time major champion. A jump here or there.”
The 25-year-old went into Sunday’s US Open without a major win or PGA Tour win, but still with a lot of confidence. He said Saturday that his recent runner-up finish in a playoff against Justin Thomas at this year’s PGA Championship made him believe he could be one of the best players in the world. But Faith couldn’t get his putt a few inches closer to the hole.
“With about two yards to go, I thought I did it,” Zatoris said of his putt. “Of course it hurts. Having three runners-up in my majors career so far.”
Zlatoris tied for the lead with Fitzpatrick on Sunday. Zulatoris struggled early, making two bogeys on the first five holes before his always elusive putter caught fire. He screwed four of the next six holes and at one point held a two-shot lead over Fitzpatrick.
“I fought like crazy,” said Zalatoris, calling his driving this week “horrible” and adding that his hip bothers him. The 2021 Masters runner-up’s usual issues arose with his putter, but as he said with a smile on Sunday, his putting was fine.
“I’m sure all the Instagram jerks will say it has something to do with my left wrist flexion coming down,” Zlatoris said of the putt on 18. “I promise you it has nothing to do with it .”
Zatoris’ two costly mistakes came in the back nine. On the 12th hole, he missed the fairway and had to hit out, resulting in a two putt for bogey. On the 15th he missed the fairway again. Fitzpatrick did too, but missed so far that he had a better lie than Zatoris, who was in the rough. Fitzpatrick shagged. Zalatoris has frowned upon. The lead was then two in favor of Fitzpatrick.
On the par-3 16th, Zatoris birdied to sit back. But when Fitzpatrick saved his misguided drive, which hit the bunker with a perfect iron shot on the 18th green, the pressure was back on Zlatoris, who went on to describe Fitzpatrick’s approach shot as “ballsy” and “1 in 20”.
“I knew Will would come close,” Fitzpatrick said. “He’s one of the best approach players on the tour.”
Zulatoris only hit it within 15 feet. Fitzpatrick made two putts for par, so Zatoris knew what to do. As he hit the ball and watched it trickle just past the hole without falling, it was Zatoris who fell to his knees in pain. The champion stood.
“I’ve been asked how nervous were you putting on 18?” Said Zalatoris. “It’s like I have nothing to lose. Either it goes in or it doesn’t.”
Even after a tough defeat, Zlatoris exuded confidence and said he had the recipe for victory. With less than a month until the next Major – the Open Championship at St Andrews – Zlatoris said he was glad he could try again soon.
“I’m not happy with second place,” he said. “I’m obviously trying to make it. The comfort level is there, especially now that I know I can do it. I just have to keep waiting my turn.”