Will Zalatoris earns Rookie of the Year honors

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Will Zalatoris started the PGA Tour’s 50-event super season on the Korn Ferry Tour. He didn’t win a PGA Tour event in the 2020-21 campaign. He didn’t get into the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Yet he did something no one has done for 20 years. Zalatoris […]

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Will Zalatoris started the PGA Tour’s 50-event super season on the Korn Ferry Tour.

He didn’t win a PGA Tour event in the 2020-21 campaign.

He didn’t get into the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

Yet he did something no one has done for 20 years.

Zalatoris will receive the Arnold Palmer Award as the PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year for the 2020-21 season, it was announced Monday. As voted by his peers, Zalatoris becomes the first non-member of the PGA Tour to win the award since Charles Howell III did so in 2001.

Zalatoris, 25, who has full playing privileges for the upcoming season, is scheduled to play in this week’s Fortinet Championship in Napa, California, which kicks off the 2021-22 season.

“The past two years have just been so wild. If you told me that I would have been sitting here as the rookie of the year, especially when we had the four-month layoff, and told to have the wraparound season, I would have had a tough time believing you,” Zalatoris said in a conference call with reporters. “If I was going to be salty about having no status, I probably would have lost my Korn Ferry Tour card. I had to take a step back and really just look at everything at a macro level instead of a micro level and just really work every single day getting better.”

The award had extra meaning for Zalatoris. who played at Wake Forest on an Arnold Palmer scholarship.

“So the fact that I’m again receiving something with Mr. Palmer’s name on it is not lost on me by any stretch of the imagination,” Zalatoris said.

While he didn’t win on the PGA Tour, he earned the award for his superb consistency and spectacular play at times. He made 21 of 25 cuts on the PGA Tour, the highlights being a runner-up finish in the Masters, where he fell one shot shy of Hideki Matsuyama, and seven other top-10s. Zalatoris rose to No. 31 in the Official World Golf Rankings, where he is currently ranked. Only five players had more top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour and Zalatoris finished 18th in scoring.

His playing status, however, was put off-kilter because of COVID-19, which wiped out three months of tournaments.

Zalatoris, who made 16 starts on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020, where he won the TPC Colorado Championship and had 10 top-10s, earned Special Temporary status on the PGA Tour last November. This allowed him to accept an unlimited number of sponsor invites on the PGA Tour.

But the PGA Tour froze player status because of the global pandemic so current members at the time would not lose their cards. No one could be promoted from the Korn Ferry Tour without earning a battlefield promotion. Zalatoris accepted the Special Temporary status and moved on to the PGA Tour.

Because eligibility rules were altered because of the coronavirus, Zalatoris earned a trip to the 2020 U.S. Open and tied for sixth. His next three starts included a tie for eighth in the Corales Puntacana Championship and a tie for fifth in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

While he banked roughly $4 million in combined earnings from both tours during the super season, he collected zero FedEx Cup points. While his non-member FedEx Cup total would have been 1,296 points, which would have ranked inside the top 30 when the playoffs started, he was stuck on zero without a win, which would have immediately made him a full member. Thus, he was unable to play in the playoffs. But his non-member points total earned his full playing status for this upcoming season.

Garrick Higgo, who won the Palmetto Championship at Congaree and is ranked No. 48 in the world, was the only other player on the ballot.

Zalatoris said his full PGA Tour membership gives him peace of mind. He is now able to put together his sown schedule for the most part.

“Last year I had a couple sponsor invites in January and next thing you know I played seven weeks in a row and kind of got fried there at the end of February into early March,” he said. “So I think really being able to figure out exactly what my schedule’s going to be and kind of shape everything around that as opposed to kind of everything being a shotgun is going to be really helpful, especially this year in terms of managing my energy.”

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