Will Zalatoris goes from no PGA Tour status to Rookie of the Year

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The easiest and, arguably, most historic vote for the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year has gone to Will Zalatoris.

Zalatoris defeated Garrick Higgo, who had a victory (Palmetto Championship) in just eight starts last season, in the voting for the Arnold Palmer Award, but the more impressive accomplishment was earning a spot on a tour that was virtually closed last season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was none of the traditional promotion or relegation via the Korn Ferry Tour last season because of the pandemic, which meant the only way to earn a spot on Tour was as a special temporary member, which Zalatoris secured in November with his tie for 16th at the Bermuda Championship.

“Will’s success despite not having PGA Tour membership status at the outset of the 2020-21 season is a testament to not only his ability but also his hard work and attitude,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement.

Zalatoris – who became the first special temporary member to win the Arnold Palmer Award since Charles Howell III in 2001 – finished the 2020-21 season with 14 top-25 finishes, including a runner-up at the Masters and top-10 showings at the PGA Championship and ’20 U.S. Open. As a special temporary member, he wasn’t able to qualify for the FedExCup playoffs but his 1,296 non-member points would have been good for a spot inside the top 25 on the final regular-season list.