KAPALUA, Hawaii — Will Zalatoris has gone more than four months since competing because of a back injury. That gave him plenty of time to contemplate a year of close calls capped by his first win, and to learn about how his body works.
“Probably more than I think I ever wanted to,” Zalatoris said at the year-opening Tournament of Champions.
Zalatoris lost in a playoff at the PGA Championship to Justin Thomas and narrowly missed a birdie putt on the final hole at Brookline that would have forced a playoff with U.S. Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick. Then he won at the first FedEx Cup playoff event, winning a three-hole playoff without having to make birdie. He played only two rounds of the BMW Championship when his back gave out.
Zalatoris said he spent time with Greg Rose at the Titleist Performance Institute to analyze how to proceed with his career.
“We basically went through a whole assessment of seeing where I’m at, and it was really I think keeping longevity in mind as opposed to anything else,” Zalatoris said.
Zalatoris led the PGA Tour in approach to the greens last year, so the idea of change made him pause.
“But I think the big thing for me is we spent a lot of time understanding the pressures of my golf swing and understanding how I push off my right side,” he said. “And I do it later than a lot of guys, so what that does for someone with a lot of side bend is that gets my right hip high and my spine is tilted back.
“And so as Dr. Rose said, Duh.’ No wonder I had a back issue.”
He said he was fortunate the fix had to do with a motor pattern and not anything structurally wrong. It took him 12 weeks to recover, and he resumed hitting balls again in early December. The only big change was how he sets up to the ball instead of anything in the swing.
Zalatoris said his swing is now more efficient, and he hasn’t lost any of his speed. Now it’s a matter of losing rust.
When he tees off Thursday, it will be his first shot in competition in 138 days.