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Will Zalatoris Voted PGA Tour Rookie of the Year

Zalatoris parlayed sponsor's invites into a second-place finish at the Masters and sixth at the U.S. Open during a season when he didn't have a PGA Tour card.
Will Zalatoris finished second at the 2021 Masters.

Will Zalatoris finished second at the 2021 Masters.

Will Zalatoris finally has a PGA Tour card, and one of the perks is being able to set a schedule without knowing for certain when he will get a sponsor exemption. Unlike other players who have a card for the first time, that schedule already includes the Masters.

Zalatoris is a different kind of first-time PGA Tour member.

He was voted PGA Tour rookie of the year despite having only special temporary membership. Key to that success was a tie sixth in the U.S. Open and a runner-up finish at Augusta National, which earned him at trip back next April. He also will have a chance to earn FedEx Cup points for the first time this week at the Fortinet Championship at Silverado.

“The peace of mind of knowing where I’m going to be playing is huge,” Zalatoris said. “Last year I had a couple sponsor invites in January and next thing you know, I played seven weeks in a row and kind of got fried there at the end of February into early March.

“So I think really being able to figure out exactly what my schedule’s going to be and kind of shape everything around that — as opposed to everything being a shotgun — is going to be really helpful.”

The early plan is the first three PGA Tour events, with hopes of getting into the Zozo Championship in Japan.

LPGA will debut new stats this week

Three months after the LPGA Tour introduced a statistical model called the “KPMG Performance Insights,” it’s ready to roll out some of the results this week during the Golf Channel telecast of the Cambia Portland Classic.

Without the overwhelming financial cost of having laser data for every shot by every player (ShotLink on the PGA Tour), the LPGA is relying on caddies to share distances to provide an idea of how they compare with the field. That’s the statistic known as “strokes gained” developed by Mark Broadie of Columbia University.

Some of the statistics that analytics specialist Justin Ray of “Twenty First Group” compiled were not surprising. For example, Nelly Korda is really good and Inbee Park can really putt.

Korda, the No. 1 player in the world, leads the LPGA Tour in strokes gained off the tee. She is sixth in approach shots and she has been among the top 30 in putting dating to the LPGA Mediheal Championship in June.

The Korn Ferry Tour released its schedule

The Korn Ferry Tour is getting back to a regular schedule with 26 tournaments set for 2022 and increased prize money.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Korn Ferry Tour had one season over two years, with no advancement to the PGA Tour in between and no international events.

The Korn Ferry Tour on Tuesday released a schedule that again starts with back-to-back weeks in the Bahamas in January, followed by tournaments in Panama and Colombia, and a stretch of 17 events in 19 weeks from early May until the season-ending Korn Ferry Tour Championship the first weekend in September.

Most notable is the minimum prize money of $750,000 ($135,000 to the winner) that goes up to $850,000 for the final regular-season event at the Pinnacle Bank Championship in Nebraska, with the three Korn Ferry Tour Finals events at $1 million each.

The tour said purses will be at $1 million in 2023, with $1.25 million for the final regular-season event and $1.5 million for the KFT Finals.

Even with golf disrupted for three months during the pandemic, the Korn Ferry Tour still managed 46 events over the last two years.

The PGA Tour's Bermuda event is growing

Bermuda is getting an additional sponsor and a bigger purse for a PGA Tour event that began as an opposite-field tournament.

The Butterfield Bermuda Championship will be played Oct. 28-31. Butterfield is a Bermuda-based independent offshore bank and trust company and joins Bermuda Tourism Authority as sponsors. And because the HSBC Champions in Shanghai was canceled, Bermuda again will receive full FedEx Cup points and offer the winner a spot in the Masters.

Prize money is rising to $6.5 million this year, up from $4 million last year, and it will be a 132-man field, an increase of 12 players.

Brian Gay won last year in a playoff.

The PGA Tour also confirmed the Zozo Championship will be played outside Tokyo on Oct. 21-24. Still to be determined is how many players will travel across the Pacific for one tournament. The CJ Cup, scheduled for the previous week, is again moving from South Korea to Las Vegas.

Golf notes

Since the start of ShotLink in 2004, only five players have finished a season in the top 30 in all the “Strokes Gained” categories (off the tee, approach, around the green and putting). Patrick Cantlay is the only one to have accomplished that twice. The others were Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy. ... The Gainbridge LPGA is returning to Boca Rio Golf Club in South Florida next year. It was held this year at Lake Nona in Orlando. ... Ian Poulter, Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia are the only Ryder Cup members who have played the PGA Championship all three times at Whistling Straits. ... Duke graduate Jaravee Boonchant has been selected for the Juli Inkster Senior Award as the highest-ranked Division I player in her final year of eligibility.

The golf stat of the week

Sergio Garcia has contributed as many Ryder Cup points (25½) as the entire American team.

The golf quote of the week

“The best thing you can do to be a team player is win your point.” — Rory McIlroy on the Ryder Cup.