The clever ‘mind trick’ Will Zalatoris’ caddie has used to keep him focused

Will Zalatoris and his caddie walk down the fairway.

Will Zalatoris and caddie Ryan Goble walk down the fairway at last week's World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational.

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Starting Thursday at the regular-season ending Wyndham Championship, Will Zalatoris will try to play his way into the FedEx Cup Playoffs for the first time in his career (although that won’t be easy). But on Tuesday at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., he also took a minute to reflect on his very first victory on one of the big tours, a one-stroke win at the TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes while on the Korn Ferry Tour in July 2020.

That story started because Zalatoris was asked about his caddie, Ryan Goble, and how crucial he’s been to Zalatoris’ success. They won together that week in Berthoud, Colo., which came in the middle of a strong stretch that consisted of six top 10s in seven starts. It got even better from there: a top 10 at the U.S. Open, a runner-up finish at the Masters and, all said, eight top 10s on the PGA Tour this season.

But first, back to that week in Colorado, and Goble’s influence on Zalatoris, because what the 24-year-old shared on Tuesday serves as an important reminder for any golfer.

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“I can kind of give you a really cool story about Ryan and kind of some of our moments of success. When I won in Colorado, well, on 15, it’s a very gettable par-5. I hit it over the back of the green and I had about a 35-footer, and I left it hanging on the lip,” Zalatoris said. “Ryan could tell I was frustrated. We get up on to 16 tee and it’s like a 122-yard par-3 down the hill with a false front, and I’m pacing off the yardage. I’m like, ‘I’ve got 122.’ He said, ‘Pace it off again.’ I’m looking at him like, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m trying to win a golf tournament. You’ve got a different number?’ And I walk it off again and I get 122. I look at him and he’s smiling and I knew immediately what he was doing was actually trying to get me to slow down and just take a moment, don’t press and make a mistake when you don’t have to, because the first thing if someone tells you to calm down, you’re like, well, no, I’m not going to calm down, you calm down. So it was a really kind of good little mind trick that he played on me, and I ended up hitting the shot to 8 feet, making birdie and we ended up winning the tournament by one.”

To sum Zalatoris’ 236 words: slow down, take a breath, especially after bad shots or bad holes. Because it’s easy to let that frustration get the best of you and result in another poor and rushed shot.

“We always keep it pretty light out there,” Zalatrois continued. “A lot of guys when they see me play, they think I’m more mellow and like very serious, but our conversations are typically completely off topic from the golf course and are a lot of fun. He’s a great friend. And it’s kind of funny because he calls me Junior because he’s 50, I’m 24.”

The PGA Tour regular season ends this week, but since Zalatoris is a special temporary member on Tour, he needs to win the Wyndham to earn a spot in the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

Josh Berhow

Golf.com Editor

Josh Berhow is the managing editor at GOLF.com. The Minnesota native graduated with a journalism degree from Minnesota State University in Mankato. You can reach him at joshua_berhow@golf.com.