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Will Zalatoris says this was the moment he knew Jordan Spieth was ‘back’

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For almost four years, Jordan Spieth was lost. What once looked so easy for him appeared to baffle the young star. The control of the golf ball he once commanded had vanished. The Houdini acts were less frequent, and his trophy case stopped filling up. Like so many players before him, Spieth had found a slump.

As quickly as that slump came however, it suddenly left. Once the calendar flipped to 2021, Spieth began to look like the player of old. His escape acts were back, and the long putts began falling once more. By the time the PGA Tour swung through his home state of Texas, Spieth was poised for a breakthrough. At the Texas Open, he did just that.

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For the first time since July of 2017, Spieth hoisted a trophy late on a Sunday. It was a refreshing sight for golf fans, and a refreshing feeling for the 27-year-old. In what felt like an instant, Spieth was back. But behind the scenes, the process was anything but simple.

“He worked so hard at it for a year and a half, just hours and hours of beating golf balls,” said fellow Texas native Will Zalatoris. “Obviously we get to see what goes on here, but I’m fortunate enough to see what goes on back home, and there’s nobody that works harder than him. It was just a matter of time.”

Zalatoris has had a front-row seat to Spieth’s career far longer than most anyone else in the ranks of professional golf. The two shared plenty of battles in their junior days as the they competed against one another in the Dallas area as kids.

“The guy has been a role model since I was nine,” he said. “He’s won everything it felt like at that age. He set the bar really for Scottie [Scheffler] and I in junior golf, so we owe him a lot of credit for our success.”

Now that the two have reached the upper echelon of the sport, they still play and practice together at Dallas National. It was in one of these games last winter when Zalatoris said he truly knew Spieth was back. That’s when Zalatoris saw him “doing Jordan things again.”

Spieth hooked his tee shot on a par-3 short and left of the green, and his partner, fellow professional Martin Flores, was in trouble as well. Zalatoris, safely on the putting surface, thought his team had the hole “in the bag.”

Then, Spieth pulled off one of his patented Houdini acts.

“Jordan hits this chip shot that skips through the rough, goes up, checks on the hill, then basically just goes Mach3 and just slams into the back of the hole and goes in,” Zalatoris said. “He follows it up with like a 30- or 40-footer on the next hole. It’s just like, ‘this is just Jordan.’ I’d seen it for the few months leading up to that, but that was when I knew, ‘Okay, he’s back.'”

Not long after, Spieth brought those types of moments back to his game inside the ropes. Top 10s on the west coast foreshadowed his breakthrough in Texas, which he followed with a top-5 finish at the Masters. Now, he’s arrived at Kiawah in hopes of filling the last hole on his resume — a win at the PGA Championship.

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