History is on Will Zalatoris’ side as he leads the PGA Championship through two rounds

TULSA — In the previous seven major championships played at Southern Hills, each eventual winner held at least a share of the 36-hole lead.

Will Zalatoris – a 25-year-old Dallas resident – ​​is able to extend the accuracy of this stat.

And if the Dallas resident didn’t know about this historic nugget before his 5 Under 65 propelled him Friday to the top of the PGA Championship standings in Tulsa, Okla., he certainly does now.

When asked if knowing that gave him confidence, Zalatoris, while maybe even suppressing a smile, played it cool.

“I think history, for me,” he said. “it’s like that.”

He will start in Saturday’s final group at -9, and with a one-stroke lead over second-placed Mito Pereira. The former Texas Tech golfer who carded a 6-under 64 on Friday to move up the board. Former PGA Championship winner Justin Thomas (-6) and two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson (-5) are just a few strokes from third and fourth place.

Zalatoris posted a bogey-free round with five birdies, and if his first-round 66 was a putting clinic (he sank four that were 20 feet or more), his second-round 65 was one on balance.

And escape trouble.

“I got away with murder several times today,” he said.

Will Zalatoris salutes after puttingt on the 13th hole during the second round of the PGA Championship golf tournament at Southern Hills Country Club, Friday, May 20, 2022, in Tulsa, Okla. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)(Eric Gay/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Take the 17th hole for example. Zalatoris’ tee shot collided with a tree to the right of the fairway and landed in the rough. But his 126-yard approach shot landed less than eight feet from the pin and set up a birdie putt.

He finished round 2 ranked 10th in strokes gained near the green and 16th in strokes gained around the green. He still ranks first in strokes won, but made nearly 90 feet fewer putts in the second round than in the first round thanks to accurate second and third shots from the fairway and rough.

“You’re able to carve your way around this golf course, and if you hit as many greens as you can, it’s pretty hard to mess it up,” Zalatoris said.

Now back to the big picture.

Zalatoris’ major championship record is awfully stellar for someone who has yet to win a PGA Tour event. In six major starts completed, he has finished in the top 10 (four times) more than he missed the cut (twice). He referenced something Dallas resident and defending Masters champion Scottie Scheffler said earlier this week – about how it takes the belief being a major champion – to explain his confidence at major golf events.

“Maybe it’s a fake attitude until you do it,” Zalatoris said.

Maybe it is. And perhaps the story that is on his side in the Southern Hills carries some weight, though Zalatoris insists there are 36 holes of golf left in Oklahoma.

It’s good, as he said, what it is. An interesting note to say the least. A harbinger of an impressive first professional victory at best.

It will continue to play cool until then. And of course, believe.

“I think I kind of had an attitude with the Majors, especially since the Masters, where I wanted to enjoy the experience as much as possible,” Zalatoris said. “I don’t want to leave anything out – looking back 20 years from now – I don’t want to regret my attitude or anything like that.”

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With a hot putter, Will Zalatoris continues his major game at the PGA Championship

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