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April 8, 2024

Will Zalatoris

Augusta, Georgia, USA

Quick Quotes

Q. How does it feel to be back here?

WILL ZALATORIS: Yeah, my mom actually reminded me this is one year to the day from the surgery, so kind of a fun day to kind of come back and play and play nine holes with Tiger this morning, a guy who has really helped me a lot I guess with the rehab of coming back from my surgery.

So it's always special to be here but obviously given the last year that I've had was a very special day.

Q. What specifically has he helped with your rehab?

WILL ZALATORIS: You know, it's kind of more of just hey, how you feeling? You feel this? You feel that? The patience game is really hard. 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.

At the time I still was having some residuals, but really after about seven months is when I felt literally 100%.

So like I said, it's just been a lot of just understanding the process and realizing that even if a doctor tells you 12 weeks, we're trying to win and compete at the highest level; it's technically longer.

Q. Did you have much of a relationship with Tiger before you guys had this in common?

WILL ZALATORIS: Not really. 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. 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, like I said, it's funny because it's not so much of the answers that he's -- or 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.

Q. With how challenging this course is, the fact that he could break a record making 24 straight cuts, does that blow your mind?

WILL ZALATORIS: It's just everything the guy has done. You could just sit there and analyze the same stats for his entire career and put him in five different buckets and every one of them is never going to be broken.

He played great today. He outdrove me a couple times so there was some chirping going on. So, you know, he looks great. He's moving as well as he can be.

Again, with everything he's gone through, it's pretty amazing to see how good he's swinging it.

Q. How do you feel, Will?

WILL ZALATORIS: I feel great. This is the best I've felt, you know, the last -- I think the best way to put it is I kept thinking I was at 100% as I've come back, and each month I've picked up a little more speed, had a little more endurance.

So I think in reality, I kept thinking that I was at kind of what was going to be my 100%, and I think that's part of the patience game. I got to the point where I feel like I can push harder in the gym and practice, but you just have to be patient. I am still only 27. I have a long career ahead of me and need to look at the long-term rather than the short-term.

Q. What do you think might be the keys to do well this week?

WILL ZALATORIS: Going to have some interesting weather. A little bit of rain on Thursday, windy, Friday will be super windy and Saturday and Sunday look unbelievable, Chamber of Commerce day.

So I can see maybe playing a little bit more defensive Thursday, Friday, and the Saturday, Sunday will be what we always dream of having a weekend at Augusta.

I think just being extra patient. Some gusts will pop up. Over the 18 holes I played over the last two days I think I've played 15 out of the 18 into the wind. But that's just Augusta. It's swirling everywhere all the time and you just have to be patience with it.

Q. Do you notice the change that's been made to the second hole?

WILL ZALATORIS: I know it's ten yards back, but thought it was going to be more left. In reality, I think it's more the fact that carrying the bunker is completely out of play with the exception of about four or five guys in the field. Used to maybe say 10% of the guys could do it. Now it's maybe a bit more.

I think now it's really a premium of hitting that fairway with the driver, you'll have an iron in. If you are back at the top of the hill, you're just not going to get there?

Q. (Regarding the eclipse.)

WILL ZALATORIS: I found a couple of Masters eclipse glasses, which I will be keeping those for absolutely the rest of my life. Those will be some collectables that will be in my office forever.

Yeah, I guess we got about four or so hours so I'll be watching it.

Q. Special enough to be here, but to have the eclipse going on, how often is that going to happen?

WILL ZALATORIS: Yeah, you know, Texas is right in the middle of it all, and so I was telling some of my buddies in Dallas that I was going to be at Augusta the day the eclipse and they were like, you've got to be kidding me. That's the coolest thing ever. It'll be fun.

Q. The skip shot on 16, you look forward to doing that?

WILL ZALATORIS: First two years I did it I was absolutely horrendous. One of the places I play at has an enormous lake, I given how bad I did I did practice it a few times given how bad it was.

Yeah, I make sure I at least get one bounce so I don't air mail it over the back of the green. It shows you how today I did it, had one skip and went flying into back bunker and Tiger got about six skips and would've almost been perfect if it didn't hit the lip of the lake.

So it's fun. That's just the tradition of this place that make it so special.

Q. What do you think of your form post Riv?

WILL ZALATORIS: Yeah, I really haven't been that far off. You know, I think I'm still learning a little bit with the broomstick. I think a lot of what I was doing was almost becoming too mechanical in the sense -- I wouldn't say mechanical, but getting too rigid in my reads.

I'm more of an artist reader. That is why I've putted well when I've played here. Stand over a putt, I check my line, that feels low, that feels high, and I think I got too much dependant on kind of almost -- I love AimPoint, but I was almost like, hey, I feel a one. In reality I could feel a one but I didn't see it with my eyes and wasn't making any putts.

You know, now I feel -- especially coming to a place like this where you have to be very artistic I feel very good about it. My speed is up. I am rolling it the best I ever have. Irons have always been great. Now it's when your week, it's your week.

Q. You played really well over the course of last (indiscernible.) Did you learn something new from Tiger when you played the nine holes about any particular shot?

WILL ZALATORIS: You know, I would say yes. I'm not willing to share them, but, yeah, I learned quite a few things. A lot of things in the sense of kind of confirming strategy around this place.

You know, the one in particular that I will say is most guys on 12 never really try to play to those right pins and keep it left. You know, keep it left of basically the lip of the front bunker. It's little things like that.

Where really besides that, it was -- he showed me a couple little things around the course.

At the same time, I let him do what he does and I just kind of followed him around.

Q. You mentioned the one year anniversary. Did you watch the Masters at all or was it too painful?

WILL ZALATORIS: So I did. I watched Sunday. I had surgery on Saturday so I pretty much missed all of it, but I think after that, I pretty much watched every event.

But no, I knew what I did on the range on Thursday and I knew that I was probably going to be out for a very long time, so I -- my mindset even hopping on the plane to go home I knew I was going to be watching a lot of golf coming up.

Really with the weather and having delays and whatnot, watching Sunday and watching Jon win was pretty cool.

Q. What did you do Thursday, the day it happened?

WILL ZALATORIS: I was just hitting some irons and I felt my back jar, and specifically I knew exactly what it was with the two disks. I started feeling the symptoms go down my legs.

I wanted it tough out but knew there was -- I had been obviously battling it for a while. I kind of kept things pretty under wraps in terms of even talking to my team about it. My team thought I was almost just more frustrated with my game, and in reality I was more frustrated with my body and the limitations that I had.

It really just finally gave out. It really was the best thing that could have happened because I was very prudent by not getting surgery the first time I hurt it. At 26 years old you don't go straight into surgery. You try to do every avenue to avoid it, and then finally once it gave out, we exhausted all options and knew we needed to do it.

So 2020 hindsight, yeah, I were probably should've gotten it that fall, but you don't do that to a 26 year old.

Q. Sorry, I meant that day. Did you go home?

WILL ZALATORIS: Yeah, flew home. Got an MRI Friday. Confirmed everything. Was in surgery 7:00 a.m. Saturday. Had my team -- my team of doctors confirmed with a bunch of other practices to make sure what they saw was a -- honestly more for me than them just to have comfort because that's a quick turnaround to hop straight into surgery.

Yeah, so it was frustrating, but obviously -- it's hard to say that I can appreciate this place any more. I'm pretty lucky to be here.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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