BROOKLINE, Mass. (Reuters) - Will Zalatoris fell just short at the U.S. Open on Sunday for the third runner-up finish at a major in his young career but remains confident as ever that his day in the winner's circle will soon come.
Zalatoris, needing to drain a 14-foot birdie putt at the final hole to force a two-man U.S. Open playoff with Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick, watched in disbelief as his ball rolled just left of the cup.
"This one hurts in particular pretty hard, but it's motivating," said Zalatoris, the reigning PGA Tour rookie of the year. "I've got to keep doing what I'm doing. I know I'm going to get one sooner or later."
After finishing runner-up to Hideki Matsuyama at the 2021 Masters and losing in a two-man playoff to Justin Thomas at last month's PGA Championship, Zalatoris arrived at The Country Club this week looking to finally take the next step.
Zalatoris certainly had his chances as he entered the final round of the U.S. Open in a share of the lead with Fitzpatrick but fell off the pace with a pair of early bogeys.
But Zalatoris roared into the turn with three birdies over a scorching four-hole stretch to get within one before moving into a share of the lead when Fitzpatrick bogeyed the 10th.
Zalatoris was then the beneficiary of a two-shot swing at the par-three 11th where he made birdie and walked off the green in front after Fitzpatrick three-putted from 17 feet for bogey.
But Zalatoris was unable to pull away, carding bogeys at the 12th and 15th before rolling in a six-foot birdie at the par-three 16th that left him one shot back and set up a wild finish.
"It stings obviously. Obviously to have three runner-ups so far in my career in majors, but keep knocking on that door," said Zalatoris.
"We're obviously doing the right things. I'd pay a lot of money for about an inch and a half, and I'd probably be a three-time major champion at this point. We'll just keep doing what we're doing."
Zalatoris is not ready to start thinking about next month's British Open but did say that the next time he find himself in contention at a major he will have an extra level of confidence that he expects will help him take the next step.
"The comfort level being in these situations is just going to get better and better," said Zalatoris. "I've already been asked, how nervous were you on the putt on 18? It's like I've got nothing to lose. It either goes in or it doesn't.
"I'm not happy with finishing second. It's not like I'm trying to coax that down there. I'm obviously trying to make it. The comfort level is there, especially now that I know I can do this. I just have to keep waiting my turn."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Brookline, Massachusetts; Editing by Stephen Coates)