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Will Zalatoris battling body ahead of final playoff push

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Will Zalatoris is in a unique bind regarding his PGA Tour status. So it doesn’t help that as he enters a week where he’s desperate for a victory, he is also dealing with the residual effects of a recent injury.

The 24-year-old from northern California enters this week’s Wyndham Championship, the finale of the tour’s regular season, needing a victory to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs despite being the No. 29 player in the Official World Golf Rankings.

That’s because Zalatoris remains a special temporary member of the tour, playing the Wyndham on a sponsor exemption, and he has not been accumulating FedEx Cup points throughout the season. The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic last year interrupted the Korn Ferry Tour season; since then, nobody has been able to earn a tour card.

“Obviously this week, it’s win or go home,” Zalatoris said Tuesday of the tournament in Greensboro, N.C. “Second means as much as missing a cut, so I’ve got nothing to lose this week.”

But Zalatoris is playing through a back injury that he suffered during the first round of The Open Championship when he hit a shot out of some particularly thick rough. He said last week at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational that he’s coping with both structural and muscular issues in a disk in his lower back.

“I’m doing okay. It’s still a pretty big effort every day to get moving,” he said Tuesday, adding a note of gratitude to his trainer, Damon Goddard. “What I said is the Saturday before last week I was 50/50 on playing (at the St. Jude). I hadn’t touched a golf club since the British at that point.

“I just said, you know what, the docs said here’s your parameters, this is what you need to look for, and I went out and actually played on that Sunday and actually felt pretty good, was moving a lot better than I thought. I’m not really getting off my right side.”

Casual golf fans became conscious of Zalatoris during a superb run in which he grabbed top-10 finishes at three straight majors: the 2020 U.S. Open, 2021 Masters and 2021 PGA Championship. His best result of the season was his runner-up finish behind Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama at the Masters.

He tied for eighth against a strong World Golf Championship field last week, with four rounds in the 60s.

Zalatoris is familiar with this week’s course, Sedgefield Country Club, in part from his collegiate playing days at nearby Wake Forest. Despite his back issue, he’s one of the favorites in the field, with DraftKings giving the sixth-best odds to win at +2800.

–Field Level Media

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