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Sport How an injured coach helped Will Zalatoris win 2022 FedEx St. Jude Championship

14:41  15 august  2022
14:41  15 august  2022 Source:   golfweek.com

Will Zalatoris parts ways with caddie of three years before weekend at Wyndham

  Will Zalatoris parts ways with caddie of three years before weekend at Wyndham Following Friday's second round of the Wyndham Championship, Will Zalatoris split with the caddie that he’s had for most of his young professional career. © Provided by Golf Channel Zalatoris and caddie Ryan Goble parted ways after Friday’s second round of the Wyndham Championship, GolfChannel.com has confirmed with Zalatoris’ manager after the news was first reported by The Caddie Network. Josh Gregory, one of Zalatoris’ instructors, is looping for the weekend at Sedgefield Country Club, which Zalatoris begun in a tie for 39th.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Josh Gregory watched it all from the clubhouse, watched as the FedEx St. Jude Championship went bonkers, his leg propped up with an ice pack because he might have torn a calf muscle.

2022 Wyndham Championship © Provided by Golfweek 2022 Wyndham Championship

He watched Will Zalatoris almost hit his tee shot into someone’s backyard on the second playoff hole. He watched Sepp Straka almost hit his tee shot into the water, so close to the edge that he took off his shoes, rolled up his pants and thought about hitting the most important shot of his career shin-deep in a TPC Southwind pond.

He watched perhaps the most delightfully bizarre ending in Memphis professional golf history when Zalatoris and Straka needed a third playoff hole to decide the first FedEx Cup Playoffs event this city has hosted.

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He watched another Zalatoris tee shot bounce multiple times on the bricks surrounding the par-3 11th, the ball lodging itself improbably between the edge of the rough and the masonry. He then watched Straka do almost the exact same thing, except his ball bounced in the water.

He watched it all with perhaps as much emotion as Zalatoris, the 25-year-old who won the first PGA Tour event of his career Sunday at the FedEx St. Jude Championship after finishing runner-up so often during his young career.

That’s because Gregory is Zalatoris’s coach who he grew up in Bartlett, Tennessee and won a state championship at Christian Brothers High School. Gregory won a city amateur title, played on this same course, while in college at SMU. His father, Jim, passed away on New Year’s Eve and he stayed this week with his mother.

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“I couldn’t dream of anything better. This is home. It’ll always be home,” Gregory said. “To see him win at home, you can’t write a better script.”

Let’s be honest, though: Nobody would have thought of this. Nobody would have considered the drama that unfolded, drama the PGA Tour would be wise to latch onto as its feud with the LIV Golf series evolves this offseason because few even remember who won the first events on that competing circuit. Let Memphis be your guide in how to fight this battle.

It started seven hours before Zalatoris and Straka arrived at the 11th green for the 75th hole of the tournament.

Cam Smith, the latest rumored defection for LIV, was given a two-stroke penalty for improper ball placement on the fourth hole Saturday. Conspiracy theories ensued, even as the PGA Tour quickly sent out a rules official who gave a perfectly reasonable explanation for what happened.

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Was Smith singled out because he might soon be leaving? Why did the PGA Tour wait until about 70 minutes before Smith’s final round to ask him about the interpretation of the rules?

It threatened to overshadow whatever else happened on an afternoon in which a win would have propelled Smith to No. 1 in the world ranking.

But then Zalatoris and Straka began to take turns trying to throw away the biggest achievement of their career, a sequence of events that was as sensational as it was non-sensical.

There were the dual images on No. 18, of Zalatoris punching out from the pine needles and brush directly in front of the backyard of a Southwind mansion and Straka debating whether to go swimming. Then came those tee shots on No. 11, the Island Hole.

You should have heard the crowd, screaming with each bounce Zalatoris’s ball took before erupting when it nestled inches from falling into the water. They did it again when Straka’s ball bounced several more times, and then got wet.

Zalatoris then deliberated for several minutes with his caddie, and there’s a story there, too. This is the first tournament Joel Stock has been on Zalatoris’s bag. Of course, they had to deal with perhaps the most pressure-packed decision Zalatoris has ever faced right off the bat.

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Straka had already taken a penalty shot, hit into a greenside bunker and punched out to within a few feet. If Zalatoris tried to chip that wedged ball, he risked it bouncing back into the water. If he got it out successfully, the tournament was his — barring that very possible disaster. If he took a penalty shot, he’d still potentially have a putt for the win.

“Being 25 and a little dumb, I probably would have gone for it,” Zalatoris said. Stock “talked me out of it.”

Gregory knew he would. He had caddied for Zalatoris at last week’s Wyndham Championship, as the golfer sifted through 50 different caddies who approached wanting to work with him.

But Gregory was helpless back in the clubhouse. He felt his calf pop during a fist-pumping celebration once Zalatoris sank a 10-foot putt for par when he played No. 18 the first time, a putt that ultimately helped send the tournament to a playoff.

“I’m too old to be doing that. It hurts. It really hurts,” Gregory said.

But by then Zalatoris was accepting the trophy on the 18th green. “It feels a lot better now,” Gregory noted.

“If you see a guy limping around,” Zalatoris joked, “that’s my coach.”

And he grew up here.

So the rising star who finally broke through and the Bartlett native feeling pain in more ways than one both cried when it was over, an unlikely tale of golf in Memphis they needed as much as the PGA Tour.

Will Zalatoris survives wild ping-pong shot in playoff for first PGA Tour win, lead in $18M FedEx Cup playoff

  Will Zalatoris survives wild ping-pong shot in playoff for first PGA Tour win, lead in $18M FedEx Cup playoff Will Zalatoris survives wild ping-pong shot in playoff for first PGA Tour win, lead in $18M FedEx Cup playoffWill Zalatoris forced, then survived a wild three-hole playoff on Sunday at the St. Jude Championship to secure his first win on the PGA Tour and the lead in the FedEx Cup Championship. The victory in the first of three championship playoff events gives him the inside track to the playoff's $18 million first-place prize.

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As big names started to move on from the PGA Tour to join the Saudi-backed, Greg Norman-led LIV Golf Series, rumors began to fly on which star would be next. Will Zalatoris' name was thrown in the mix. However, he immediately shot down the notion with a social media post on June 30th: “I have dreamed of winning on the PGA Tour and winning majors since I was a little kid. I love where the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour and their associated tours are headed.” Fast forward a month and he’s still being asked questions about LIV, but this time it’s about the potential distraction the newly-born league is causing.

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