It may be hard to fathom but Will Zalatoris is not yet a full member of the PGA Tour.
Had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent change in the PGA Tour schedule and its qualification process, he would be.
Here’s what the 24-year-old Wake Forest graduate and Masters runner-up has accomplished in the past year and why it still hasn’t been good enough to get his PGA Tour card:
Zalatoris, who was 60th on the 2019 Korn Ferry points list, began the 2020 season by tying for fourth in the Bahamas. He never let up, finishing among the top-10 in seven of his first 10 events — including a tie for sixth at the TPC Sawgrass Dye’s Valley and a tie for third at the King & Bear in June, the first two tournaments after the resumption of the professional golf season.
He had five top-10s in a row from the First Coast events through a tie for fifth at the TPC San Antonio, and shot in the 60s in mind-boggling 17 of 20 rounds.
That run included his first professional victory, at the TPC Colorado, and he held the lead on the Korn Ferry Tour points list after its Tour Championship last fall — and still does, despite not having played an event since the Evans Scholar Invitational on Sept. 13.
Zalatoris also remains on top of the Korn Ferry Tour in scoring average at 68.44.
That would have earned him a Tour card, except for the fact that the Tour decided that no exempt players would lose their status for 2020-21 because of the loss of nearly three months of competition due to the pandemic.
With no players losing status, that meant no players would gain status off the Korn Ferry Tour. The points race is now both years combined.
Except for the United States Golf Association, that might have been the end of the story and Zalatoris would still be playing on the Korn Ferry Tour. However, one of the ways the USGA filled the U.S. Open field in the absence of sectional qualifiers was to give the top-five on the Korn Ferry Tour points list an exemption into the Open.
Zalatoris tied for sixth – which meant he got into the Tour’s event in the Dominican Republic. He tied for eighth at Corales Puntacana and the sponsors at the Shriners Hospital For Children Open in Las Vegas took notice and gave him an invitation. Zalatoris tied for fifth.
That got him into the Tour event in Bermuda, where he tied for 16th and earned enough non-member FedEx Cup points to get special temporary membership, which means he could accept unlimited sponsor invitations, as opposed to a limit of seven for non-members.
Zalatoris didn’t play again until the Farmers Insurance Open Jan. 28-31. He tied for seventh, his 14th top-10 on the two Tours combined in a 12-month span, and moved to 49th on the World Golf Rankings.
From there, he has been able to get in tournament fields either through his World ranking, since being among the top-50 usually guarantees a spot anywhere. He’s posted six top-25 finishes since then, including a 21st at The Players Championship and his second at the Masters.
Presently, Zalatoris is 27th in the world and 1,043 non-member FedEx Cup points, which would be 13th on the list if he were a full member. His scoring average of 69.929 is 10th on the Tour.
Zalatoris can play in pretty much any tournament he wants for the rest of the year, and is in the field for this week’s RBC Heritage, an invitational. However, by Tour rules, he can’t compete in the FedEx Cup playoffs until he fulfills one more requirement: he has to win between the RBC and the Wyndham Championship, a span of 19 tournaments.
Theoretically, Zalatoris could finish second every time he tees it up, accrue more non-member FedEx Cup points than the leader, but not be eligible for the playoffs.
The good news is that he will earn his PGA Tour card for next year if he doesn’t win, since he can’t fall below 25th on the current Korn Ferry points list.
He also won’t go poor if he doesn’t make the lucrative FedEx playoffs. His $1,242,000 check from the Masters pushed him over $3 million in PGA Tour events this season, and his $403,978 from the Korn Ferry Tour have given him $3.4 million since the beginning of 2020.
Zalatoris is counting his blessings, especially after 2018, when he played only once after chasing Korn Ferry Monday qualifiers.
“This game is very fickle and if you’re not mentally tough, it will get to you,” he said on Sunday after the final round of the Masters. “It was a pretty rough first year as a pro. It was a little under two years ago I was sitting down with my coaches and my agent and talking about playing mini-tour events and [last week] frustrated that I was one shot short of winning the Masters. It’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Tournaments still cautious about fans
Golf tournaments are still being conservative about allowing fans into tournaments but at least it’s now happening on a steady basis.
Tournaments are releasing figures that have a fixed number of fans, or a percentage of what is considered “capacity.”
The RBC Heritage is allowing 20 percent of its capacity this week, which mirrors previous events such as the Masters, The Players and the Palmer Invitational.
The Zurich Classic the following week will allow up to 10,000 fans per day at the TPC Louisiana, the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor is allowing between 20-30 percent capacity. The Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte is planning on 30 percent, the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic in Dallas, the PGA Championship in Kiwah Island and the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth all announcing it will sell up to 10,000 tickets per day.
Fowler drops out of top-100
Rickie Fowler is out of the top 100 in the world for the first time since February 2010. … With his tie for 12th at the Masters, Stewart Cink became the 22nd player to surpass $40 million in career earnings on the PGA Tour. … Of the 17 players who finished among the top-12 and ties at the Masters, 14 needed their finish to guarantee their spots in the field next year. Only three were already eligible as Masters champions, major champions from the last five years or Players Championship winners from the last three years.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Event: RBC Heritage, Thursday-Sunday, Harbour Town Golf Links, Hilton Head, Island, S.C.
At stake: $7.1 million purse ($1.278 million and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner).
Defending champion: Webb Simpson.
TV: Golf Channel (Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m.); CBS (Saturday-Sunday, 3-6 p.m.).
Area players entered: Tyler Duncan, Harris English, Jim Furyk, Brian Harman, Billy Horschel, Patton Kizzire, Russell Knox, Matt Kuchar, Davis Love III, Tyler McCumber, J.T. Poston, Adam Schenk, Cameron Smith, Hudson Swafford.
Notable: World No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa, Will Zalatoris and Patrick Cantlay lead the field. They are among 42 players who were in the Masters last week. … Simpson won last year on Father’s Day after the tournament was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Event: LOTTE Championship, Wednesday-Saturday, Kapolei Golf Club, Kapolei, Hawaii.
At stake: $2 million purse ($300,000 to the winner).
Defending champion: Brooke Henderson.
TV: Golf Channel (Wednesday-Saturday, 7-11 p.m.).
Area players entered: Chella Choi.
Notable: Henderson came from four behind Eun-Hee Ji with 36 holes left to shoot 69-70 on the weekend and win by four shots. Ji faded to 74-73 in the final two rounds. … Nine of the top-10 players in the world are in the field, with only No. 1 Jin Young Ko missing.
PGA Tour Champions
Event: Chubb Classic, Friday-Sunday, Tiburon Golf Club, Naples.
At stake: $1.6 million purse ($240,000 to the winner).
Defending champion: Scott Parel.
TV: Golf Channel (Friday, 12-3:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 3-5:30 p.m.).
Area players entered: Fred Funk, Frank Lickliter, Vijay Singh.
Notable: Seven players in the field played in last week’s Masters, including Jose Maria Olzabala, who made the cut. … Also playing are Fred Couples, Ernie Els, Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie. … Parel shot 63 in the final round and beat Bob Estes by two shots. … Alex Cejka won his second Monday qualifier of the season with a 64. Lickliter was second with a 65.
Korn Ferry Tour
Event: MGM Resorts Championship at Paiute, Thursday-Sunday, Paiute Golf Resort, Sun Mountain Course, Las Vegas.
At stake: $600,000 purse ($108,000 to the winner).
Defending champion: First-year event.
Area players entered: Blayne Barber, Chandler Blanchet, Ryan Blaum, Jonas Blixt, Matt Every, Luke Guthrie, Rick Lamb, David Lingmerth, Trey Mullinax, Jared Wolfe.
Notable: Multiple PGA Tour winners Robert Allenby, Aaron Baddeley and Sea O’Hair are in the field. … Pete Dye designed the course.