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Will Zalatoris Shoots 68 for 13-Shot Improvement at Hero World Challenge

Chalked up first-round 81 to ‘mental rust’ and new swing, new putter

Will Zalatoris eagled the third hole and shot a 4-under 68 in the second round of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas on Friday.

It was a 13-stroke improvement over his disastrous opening-round 81.

“Obviously really pleased with today,” he said. “Yesterday was just kind of a joke. Just keep doing what we’re doing; I know really, really good golf is ahead. It’s just getting the reps in.”

In his first competitive round since undergoing a microdiscectomy on his back in April, Zalatoris struggled mightily Thursday. Trying to learn a new swing to take pressure off his back, and with a new broomstick putter, he opened the round with a birdie but the magic was short-lived. Three double-bogeys and four bogeys followed.

Zalatoris said he’s been playing and practicing without restrictions at his home course in Dallas for six weeks, but competition is a different matter. He’s on a less familiar course with swirling wind and little margin for error, as wild shots tend to run along the hardpan until they nestle into a bush.

His back has been fine, he added, but he’s been fighting a head cold and his neck has been hurting.

On the plus side, he said he found something with the new broomstick Friday, when he made no worse than bogey.

“I’m still learning how to use that thing,” he said of the long putter, which Lucas Glover has credited with saving his career, “but I think really the last 12 holes was really good because I was finally getting the feels of what I should be doing. I had no expectations coming in; I mean, I played in the net flight yesterday, and a little improved today.”

Zalatoris has struggled with back problems since capturing his first PGA TOUR title at the 2022 FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis. He tried to treat it non-surgically and made a brief comeback this season before pain knocked him out of the Masters and he decided on surgery.

After his 9-over opening round at the Hero on Thursday, Zalatoris said he told his caddie, Joel Stock, that the new goal was to get back to even par for the tournament. He got almost halfway there Friday.

“It’s been seven months since I played tournament golf,” he said. “I can go around my home golf course and shoot 65 in my sleep, but under the gun, go play different conditions, different lies, stuff like that, it’s the little things.”

Source : PGA Tour