How Will Zalatoris and Tiger Woods have bonded over hardship

Tiger Woods, Will Zalatoris, and their caddies walk down the fairway.

Tiger Woods and Will Zalatoris shared a practice round Monday.

Warren Little/Getty Images

Will Zalatoris said his mother recently reminded him where he was exactly a year ago.

Not in a great place.

At the 2023 Masters, Zalatoris withdrew just before his first-round tee time and had a microdiscectomy procedure on his back by Saturday, forcing him to miss the rest of the 2023 PGA Tour season.

He didn’t play again until Tiger Woods’ charity event in the Bahamas in December.

That first appearance at the Hero World Challenge was a roller coaster. With Zalatoris debuting a new broomstick-style putting method, he opened with a shocking 81 before dropping 13 strokes in the second round. His weekend rounds were only mildly more consistent, going 79-71 for a 20th-place finish.

Zalatoris exhibited more of the same unevenness in a missed cut at the Sony Open, but then started to find his groove, finishing T2 at the Genesis Invitational and taking a huge lead during the third round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational before ultimately finishing T4.

Tiger Woods, Will Zalatoris, and their caddies walk down the fairway.
How Will Zalatoris and Tiger Woods have bonded over hardship

Now, Zalatoris is back at the site where his season ended a year ago, but also at a place where he has enjoyed success. (He finished runner-up to Hideki Matsuyama in his 2021 debut and then backed it up with a T6 in 2022.)

And on Monday, he kicked things off in memorable fashion, playing nine practice holes with someone who can relate to clawing back from injuries: Tiger Woods.

“He’s a guy who has really helped me a lot, I guess, with the rehab of coming back from my surgery,” Zalatoris said.

Even before Woods’ current battle with right leg injuries that he sustained in a February 2021 car crash, he had undergone five separate microdisectomies on his back, the same procedure Zalatoris underwent.

“The patience game is really hard,” Zalatoris said. “Obviously, he had gone through way more than what I had gone through. Having the same surgeons kind of the same team, you know, just having the conversation I guess about, ‘Hey, after this amount of time how do you feel?’ ‘After this amount of time how do you feel?’

“I saw him in October at his charity event and spent some time with him on the range there and wasn’t up to hitting more than — somewhere in the irons I guess. Talked to him a little bit about my golf swing.”

tiger woods lines up a putt
Tour Confidential: Tiger Woods’ Masters prep, Nelly’s winning streak, Scottie’s epic month
By: GOLF Editors

At that point, Zalatoris said he was still feeling pain from the injury. It took him seven months to feel fully healthy again. He said Woods helped him understand what the realistic timelines would be.

Before Zalatoris’ injury-plagued 2023, he and Woods hadn’t crossed paths often. When Zalatoris had his breakout solo second at Augusta in 2021, he was still technically a member of the Korn Ferry Tour, and Woods was recovering from his crash injuries.

“I really think when I went to his charity event in New York and spent some time with him and everything that I had gone through, you know, I always try to give him his space,” Zalatoris said. “I’d always been around him a bunch over the last few years.

“I think with the success I had had in majors and how close I’ve been and how driven I’ve been to get it and then having a setback — having the exact same injury, it’s funny because it’s not so much…the questions that I’ve asked and him giving the answers, it’s been more the thought-provoking questions that he’s given to me has really been the stuff that’s kind of got me back to where I am now.”

Jack Hirsh Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at