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In 2020, Will Zalatoris was a little-known Wake Forest grad fighting for a chance to play on the PGA Tour. Two years later, he’s become a top-12 player in the world who’s only a few strokes away from being a three-time major champion.

In nine major championship starts, the budding superstar has recorded six top-10s and three runner-up finishes. He’s now finished one stroke behind the winner in two straight majors, but he somehow hasn’t brought home a victory yet.

Still, only one golfer in history has been better than Zalatoris in majors through their first nine starts. That golfer is none other than Tiger Woods.

Will Zalatoris is already a monster in major championships

It normally takes young PGA Tour players a few years before they start seriously competing in major championships, but Zalatoris has been quite the opposite. Despite being only a sophomore on Tour, Willy Z has played his best golf in the majors.

In nine starts, he’s missed the cut just twice and had to withdraw once. He finished T8, T6, T6, T2, 2, and 2 in the other six. In all three of his runner-up finishes, he fell just one stroke shy of the winning score. Interestingly, he has only one runner-up in non-majors throughout his career.

The club that’s mostly held Zalatoris back from winning his first PGA Tour event is his putter. The 25-year-old ranks 158th on Tour in strokes gained putting this season, but for some reason, he putts much better in majors where the greens are faster and the pressure is amped up a notch.

In three major starts this year, Zalatoris has ranked sixth, 10th, and fourth in the field in strokes gained putting. Combine his hot putter with his elite ball-striking, and you get one of the best young major performers in golf history.

Only Tiger Woods has been better than Will Zalatoris through nine major starts

Will Zalatoris tees off during the final round of the U.S. Open.
Will Zalatoris plays his shot from the 16th tee during the final round of the 122nd U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club | Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

We all know how good Woods has played in major championships throughout his career. Not only does he have 15 major titles, but he’s also notched 41 top-10 finishes.

Like Zalatoris, Woods figured out how to excel in majors early on in his career. He won his first at the 1997 Masters in just his seventh major start, and the floodgates opened from there. In his first nine major starts, Tiger recorded a true strokes gained figure of +2.9, which is the best mark in golf history to start a career.

And who’s now second on that list? None other than Zalatoris. Willy Z has gained 2.8 total strokes through his first nine major starts, which puts him ahead of every other PGA Tour player not named Tiger Woods, per Data Golf.

It’s only a matter of time until Zalatoris gets over the hump and brings home his first major title.

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