SAN DIEGO – Will Zalatoris might still look as thin as a 1-iron, but he has added some heft.
And some distance.
One of the game’s most lithe players, Zalatoris said he has packed on 15 pounds over the past few months in an attempt to withstand the workload of a full season. Each offseason he’s tried to gain weight, but it was always a byproduct of more gym time and getting stronger. Then he suffered a back injury at the Open Championship when he hacked out of the juicy rough, spoiling what had been a stellar first half of 2021.
Committed to a change this time, Zalatoris said he began “reverse intermittent fasting” each day this offseason – eating as early as 6 a.m. and then pushing back dinner, to around 8 p.m. That allowed him to pack on the pounds with two full meals as he bumped up his weight to 172 pounds. He said the extra girth will make a difference during the heat and humidity in the summer.
“I’ve been needing to do it for a long time,” he said. “This was the easiest 15 that I’ve put on.”
He’s already seeing the benefits on the course – and an equipment tweak has him hitting it longer than ever.
Full-field scores from Farmers Insurance Open
Before last week’s American Express, Zalatoris added an inch to his driver shaft length, just below the new legal limit of 46 inches. That switch immediately added 12 yards to his drives and he’s clocked a clubhead speed of 127 mph with a ball speed approaching 190 mph.
Zalatoris wasn’t short, though. He ranked 23rd in distance last season, averaging 307 yards, but now “the added distance has really paid dividends.”
Indeed, it helped him post the best ball-striking performance in the ShotLink era on Torrey Pines’ treacherous South Course. He gained an eye-popping 6.64 strokes on the field from tee to green, the most since the Tour began tracking stats on this course in 2004.
Even more important: Zalatoris’ third-round 65 gave him a share of the lead at the Farmers Insurance Open. He is at 14-under 202, tied with Jason Day.
“That was by far the best I’ve ever driven it,” Zalatoris said. His irons were typically excellent, with a hole-out for eagle on the second hole sending him on his way to a bogey-free round.
And, remarkably, Zalatoris’ breezy 65 could have been even better.
When asked if he left a few shots out there, he blurted out, “Oh, God, yeah.” He missed six putts inside 15 feet, including misses from 3 feet on 13 and 4 feet on 17. It was a two-pronged issue, with Zalatoris saying he wasn’t used to having to start putts outside the hole from such short range and on such bumpy poa annua greens.
“I think that’s something that, tomorrow, I just have to commit to it – and, hey, if it bounces in, it bounces in. If it bounces out, it bounces out,” he said.
And so here, then, is another prime opportunity for the 25-year-old to nab his first Tour title. The 2021 Masters’ runner-up already has nine top-10s in just 37 Tour starts as a pro.
“I just have to keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “Obviously, it’s been working. My time will come, and hopefully, it’s tomorrow.”