Will Zalatoris had a plan.
After missing by two strokes at First Stage of 2018 Korn Ferry Tour Q-School, he vowed to leave no stone unturned in his quest of ascending to a top level of professional golf.
He devised a process with coaches Troy Denton and Josh Gregory, among others, and tackled the oft-uncertain route of chasing Korn Ferry Tour Monday qualifiers.
Less than two-and-a-half years later, Zalatoris’ process reached a worldwide spotlight at the Masters Tournament, as the 24-year-old Wake Forest product contended through the weekend en route to a solo-second finish at Augusta National, one back of winner Hideki Matsuyama.
For the Korn Ferry Tour Points Leader, the next rung on the ladder is securing full PGA TOUR membership and a spot in the FedExCup Playoffs.
How to activate TOUR membership this season? Win on TOUR.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus, Zalatoris finds himself in a unique scenario that is unlikely to be duplicated in the PGA TOUR’s modern era. After a sparkling 2020 Korn Ferry Tour campaign that included seven consecutive top-15 finishes and a victory at the TPC Colorado Championship at Heron Lakes, he would have normally secured TOUR membership via The 25 last August.
The pandemic hiatus, though, forced the TOUR to adapt competition and eligibility requirements on the fly. Without a full TOUR season contested in 2019-20, it was determined by the Player Advisory Council and Policy Board that no TOUR cards would be lost for the 2020-21 season.
The consequent effect was that no TOUR cards would be awarded for 2020-21, either. The 2020 Korn Ferry Tour season morphed into a combined 2020-21 season, with The 25 TOUR cards to be awarded upon the conclusion of the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season-ending Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna in August. Another 25 TOUR cards will be awarded via the subsequent three-event Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
The one-time adjusted structure lent itself to the possibility that a Korn ferry Tour member could ascend the Official World Golf Ranking to previously unforeseen heights before earning his full TOUR membership.
With his top-five position on the Korn Ferry Tour Regular Season Points List upon the conclusion of the WinCo Foods Portland Open last August, he earned a spot in the U.S. Open at Winged Foot – another example of adapted criteria in accordance with the pandemic, as the United States Golf Association opted against conducting sectional qualifying, rather offering U.S. Open exemptions as a performance benefit across a variety of golf’s ranking systems.
Zalatoris took full advantage of his U.S. Open exemption, finishing T6 to earn a spot in the following week’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Chamlionship. He finished T8 there, then placed T5 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open on a sponsor’s invite.
With a T16 finish at the Bermuda Championship in early November, the Dallas resident passed the non-member FedExCup Points threshold (top-150 from the 2018-19 season) to secure TOUR Special Temporary Membership – in other words, the ability to accept unlimited TOUR sponsor’s exemptions in a season.
Zalatoris hasn’t slowed down. He has continued to earn opportunities and play well, ascending into the top-50 Official World Golf Ranking and earning exemptions in the WGC-Workday Championship at the Concession, WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and Masters Tournament, among other TOUR starts.
With his solo second finish at Augusta National, he now stands No. 27 on the Official World Golf Ranking. As a non-member, though, he is not currently eligible for the FedExCup Playoffs.
With a TOUR victory, Zalatoris would earn automatic TOUR membership, and all non-member FedExCup Points (other than Points accrued in World Golf Championships events) would activate. He currently holds 1,043 non-member FedExCup Points, 976.64 of which would activate. (Only 13 players have earned more than 976.64 Points so far this season.)
The other avenue to accelerated TOUR membership would be a Three-Victory Promotion via the Korn Ferry Tour – for this benefit to apply, he would need two more Korn Ferry Tour wins this season. In this scenario, his non-member, non-WGC FedExCup Points would activate the same as if he were to win a TOUR event.
As he is guaranteed to earn fully exempt 2021-22 PGA TOUR status via the top-125 non-member category, he will not be eligible to play in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, as he cannot better his TOUR status via the Finals.
Regardless of how the spring and summer unfold, Zalatoris has maintained a profound appreciation for the ‘process’ that has paid dividends and will likely continue to do so.
“It was a little over two years ago that I was sitting down with my coaches and agent and talking about playing mini-tour events,” said Zalatoris after completing his final round at Augusta National. “Not even two years later, frustrated that I was one shot short of winning the Masters.
“It’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Source: PGA tour