Will Zalatoris and caddie, Ryan Goble, part ways after round 2 of Wyndham Championship

GREENSBORO, NC – Will Zalatoris said it was the toughest decision he’s had to make in his golf career.

But he knew that his working relationship with his caddie, Ryan Goble, who had “basically been my best friend for the last three years,” Zalatoris said, had become stagnant. So, after the two finished off a 66 in the second round of the Wyndham Championship, Zalatoris told Goble he was fired.

“Ryan’s a brother for life,” Zalatoris said Saturday. “We’ve kind of had a rough month together and it was starting to affect our relationship. I know guys say that when they split, but it really was. We were guys that we would love to have dinner together and hang out and … what was going on on the course was starting bleed off the course and that’s not what you want.

“He’s an incredible friend, I love him to death, and I told him I had to do what’s best for me.”

Zalatoris asked his short game and putting coach, Josh Gregory, to fill in on the weekend, and Saturday’s result was a second-straight 66. The former Wake Forest All-American finished minutes before the second rain delay and will start the final round at 7 under.

Zalatoris plans to have Joel Stock, who has caddied for Ben Crane, Kevin Tway and Cameron Tringale, work for him during the FedExCup Playoffs and beyond.

The decision Zalatoris made was not a hasty one. He said that both he and Goble had “kind of sensed it for a little bit” and the frustration had carried over for the last month. He featured Goble as “one of the funniest guys I know.”

Zalatoris, who has runner-up finishes in three of the nine majors he’s played, including two this year, also left the door open for a future reunion. “Nothing’s permanent and we’ll kind of see how everything goes from here,” he said.

Gregory, the former SMU and Augusta University coach who is based in Dallas where Zalatoris lives, called Saturday “one of the coolest days of my coaching career.” He knew how difficult it was for Zalatoris to fire Goble and he said the goal on Saturday was simply to have fun.

“I feel awful, but Ryan Goble was first class the way he handled it,” Gregory said. “He’s been there with Will when Will was ranked over 1,000 in the world and now, he’s a top-15 player in the world and going to trend upwards.

“So, (Ryan) will be very successful in the future, and he will land a great job and things are going to be good. And it’s going to be a win-win for both of them.”

Playing well Saturday was a bonus, Gregory said, although the round started with a double bogey on the second hole after “one of the worst shots I’ve ever seen him hit.” Eight birdies followed, along with just two bogeys, and Zalatoris has another chance to pick up his first PGA TOUR victory.

“I would guess that the lead’s probably going to be 13 or 14, maybe even higher, so I’m going to have to put up a pretty low one tomorrow to win this,” said Zalatoris, who came to Greensboro ranked No. 11 in the FedExCup. “Pretty good momentum obviously going forward to the next few weeks in the Playoffs.”

Zalatoris called Gregory Friday evening to ask him to caddie on the weekend. The 47-year-old said he was glad to fill in and even recently he’d lost some weight – “otherwise I don’t think I would have made it in the heat,” joked Gregory, who toted the bag for another one of his students, Henrik Norlander, earlier this year at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Gregory said he hoped he was able to bring a smile to Zalatoris’ face on Saturday, along with some conviction and positivity – like when the Texan made double at No. 2 and his coach just said, “let’s go see how many bridies we can make.”

“We’ve had an awesome few years, and this was a tough day, tough week for him,” Gregory said. “You heard in his interviews how much he loves Ryan, and their relationship was amazing. It was time. He needed to make a change and selfishly for me to be there for him and give him a hug and, and tell him I love him. Our goal this weekend was to have fun.”

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