Justin Thomas, steady and persistent as always, hoisted the Wanamaker Trophy for a second time this weekend. Mito Pereira, carrying the torch for suddenly golf-rich Chile, suffered a nightmare on his 72nd hole and may have fumbled away his best chance of winning a major. Scribes could latch onto either story as they share top billing. One showed the agony of a weekend marathon. The other the ecstasy. But there's someone else to talk about following a roller-coaster at Southern Hills. The man who, once again, found himself close with no cigar.
Will Zalatoris lost the three-hole aggregate playoff to Thomas through no fault of his own. He was simply outplayed on No. 17. The result? A disappointing yet inspiring second-place finish. And the promise that he's knocking at the door with intentions to one day knock it down and start building a legacy.
The slender 27-year-old is not always included in discussion about the game's greatest players. His body of work suggests that he should be. Because only one person in the history of golf has accumulated as many Top-10s in their first eight majors (five).
Zalatoris finished sixth at last month's Masters and last year's U.S. Open. Last year's PGA Championship brought an eighth-place performance. There has been no learning curve, unless you consider getting within view of the summit without ever reaching it part of the learning process. And Zalatoris is not getting farther away from his goal. He's getting closer.
Blistering play on Thursday and Friday allowed him to enter the weekend with the lead. It was buoyed by remarkable putting, which has been the fly in the ointment for Zalatoris. He eventually reverted back to the mean, but showing that he can do it on the big stage and that his retooled process is yielding dividends is not nothing.
He may look like Happy Gilmore's caddie. And he may, just like Gilmore, have learned how to putt.
Zalatoris couldn't get on the right track consistently on Sunday and found himself with a must-make on No. 18 to tie Thomas in the event Pereira melted down. Staring down an eight-footer, he confidently found the bottom of the cup. There is no greater test of nerves on tour than a do-or-die putt and Zalatoris passed with flying colors. He didn't lose the playoff as much as Thomas took it by sheer force.
While lamenting the missed opportunity is only natural, what happened this weekend can be the final building block in what promises to be an incredibly productive career. Zalatoris has finished in the top six in four of his last five tournaments and has seven Top-10s already this year. One would struggle to find a more consistent player, and perhaps one with greater potential. Because if those putts keep falling, he's as complete a package as any on Tour.