Why the U.S. Ryder Cup team needs Will Zalatoris, according to Will Zalatoris
The 43rd Ryder Cup is just around the corner, on Sept. 24-26 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. We know who the automatic qualifiers are for the U.S and who they likely will be for Europe, so now the fun begins as we wait to see which players land a spot via captain’s picks, which will be announced in the coming weeks. Yes, Jordan Spieth wasn’t an auto-qualifier, but let’s get real, Spieth will be on the U.S. team. But what about the other guys, the players who might not be slam-dunk picks? In the days leading up to the captain’s picks, our staffers make their case for some of those players.
Previous installments: The case for Scottie Scheffler | Should the Europeans call up the old guard, or go with new blood? | Don’t leave Daniel Berger off this U.S. team | Bubba’s bubbliness makes him an enthusiastic choice
September 5, 2021
Dear Mr. Steven Stricker, Mr. Frederick Couples, Mr. Philip Mickelson and the United States Ryder Cup team,
My name is James Colgan, and it is my distinct pleasure to write you today to share my enthusiastic recommendation for William (Will) Zalatoris as a candidate for your Ryder Cup team.
The golf world has known Will for a little more than three years, and in that time, he has repeatedly proven his aptitude as both a professional and competitor. I’ve known Will for slightly less than that, but from our interactions, I can say confidently he shares not only the proper credentials for inclusion in such elite company, but also the ideal mental and emotional makeup for extraordinary success.
For years, you and your Ryder Cup companions have fallen victim to players with lots of flash, but very little substance. How many world top 10 players have shrunk under the microscope provided by the Ryder Cup? How many have failed to convert strokeplay success into match play dominance?
Quite simply, Will is a gamer. He’s at his best when the lights are brightest — evidenced by his performances over the last 12 months at major championships. With only five professional starts in majors, Will has already advanced to the top of his peers. He already has three top-10 finishes in the big four tournaments, including a daring runner-up finish in his first Masters start in April.
That is to say nothing of his match play experience, which is admittedly limited, but unquestionably strong. After all, you have to be a strong match play competitor to win the U.S. Junior Amateur, as Will did in 2014, or make it to the round of 16 at the U.S. Amateur, which Will did in 2017. Representing the United States at the 2017 Walker Cup, Will went 3-1-0, winning each of his last three matches by wide margins. At the WGC Dell Technologies match play in March, he went 1-1-1 including a halved match against fellow Ryder Cup hopeful Tony Finau, and a two-up win over Dylan Frittelli.
Critics will say that Will’s performances over the last few months aren’t indicative of a large enough sample size to deserve one of the final six captains picks. They’ll point out his lacking full PGA Tour status, and his struggles putting as examples of his lacking preparedness to play on the biggest stage.
To that I say “look at the tape.” Will has never been at the top of his age group, nor has he frequently been heralded as the “next big thing.” Yet his performances in 2021 (overwhelmingly through sponsor’s exemptions) have been good enough to make him the 31st-best player in the world, by Official World Golf Ranking, without any starts in the points-rich FedEx Cup playoffs. When Will has been allowed to play, he’s been stunningly consistent — racking up eight top-10s, 14 top-25s and making 21/24 cuts. As for his performance on the greens, well, the fact he’s been in contention at all in recent months with a caved-in putter face should only further his candidacy. (His stroke-per-round improvement putting in the two starts following his putter change should alleviate any concerns the issue was anything more than an equipment snafu).
His credentials — at only 25 years old — and his comfort at Whistling Straits (a venue that suits his ballstriking prowess if there ever were one) should make this an easy choice.
But should you still have questions, I asked Will to prepare a spoken statement for U.S. Ryder Cup leadership himself, which I have transcribed and included below:
I think I played well in the big moments. A lot of top-10s, a runner-up at Augusta. Obviously the guys from Dallas that are going to be on the team, and we’ve got some great camaraderie and make a great team.
Whistling is perfect for me. It’s super long. You’ve got to hit it straight up there. Length is the biggest advantage you can have there. And obviously there’s a lot of trouble around the greens with all the bunkers, with ballstriking being my key.
I’m kind of a guy that’ll beat you by 1,000 paper cuts. I’m just gonna keep hitting fairways and greens, keep getting myself looks and just wear on people. That’s why I won a lot of matches at the Walker Cup, Palmer Cup, U.S. Juniors. I’m taking them a little later than I should, where they’ve gone 16, 17, 18. But the fact that I’ve been that solid that any mistake the opponent makes, I’m going to try to take advantage of it. You know the days where my putter gets hot, it’s just hard to beat me. Just thinking back to some of the matches where I’ve been making 15-20 footers, it’s just, you know, those days when I’m blackout out from 10 to 12 feet, I’m tough to beat.
Overall, I can’t think of a better candidate to join your team than Will. He’s smart, daring, and refreshingly genuine. It’s clear to everyone around Will (and many people who are not) that not only will he survive the many pressures of a Ryder Cup, he’ll thrive within them. Truthfully, the only remaining question I have about his candidacy for the team is whether you’ll have the courage to select him.
I trust you’ll make the right decision.