32-year-old Zac Blair just earned the biggest paycheck of his life at the 2023 Travelers Championship, but for Blair, this week was about so much more…
New England hero Keegan Bradley will garner much of the attention and headlines this week after his incredible win at TPC River Highlands on Sunday, and deservedly so, but there was another incredible story that came out of this week’s PGA Tour event in Cromwell, Connecticut.
It’s the tale of a PGA professional who has been applying his craft on tour since 2014, and who despite injury setbacks, never gave up on his dream of playing professional golf.
Zac Blair is playing this season on a PGA Tour medical exemption after the 32-year-old Utah native suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder that saw Zac miss a significant amount of time.
“Yeah, out for a couple years with a shoulder injury. Torn labrum in my right shoulder. Yeah, took about two years after basically, and had like 24 starts, so it was basically what I thought was almost close to a full year,” he said describing the lengthy absence that kept him away from the sport he loves.
He added that it took him around six to seven months before even being able to return to the course after his surgery.
"“Like six or seven months after is when I played my first round I think. Took it pretty easy. Kind of went from playing once a week and twice a week and three times a week, and then my first major medical start on the — like rehab start on the Korn Ferry Tour was last year in the summer.That was the first test to see if I could play for seven days in a row basically.”"
Blair returned to tour action at the Fortinet Championship last September where he recorded a T12 finish that saw him off to a solid start in the quest to fulfill the requirements needed in order to keep his tour card.
He added a top-30 finish at the RSM Classic last November and a T10 at the Valspar Championship in March as Blair continued to chip away at the points needed in order to retain his card. Zac entered the Travelers Championship knowing he needed around 270 points from the seven to eight remaining events this season.
How one week at the Travelers changed everything for Zac Blair…
Zac Blair played some excellent golf all week at this year’s Travelers Championship and he got out to a quick start after consecutive rounds of 65 had him well-positioned heading into the weekend. But for Blair, he saved his best for last and came up clutch down the stretch to ensure that this week would change everything.
Five birdies on the front helped offset two early bogeys during Zac Blair’s final round on Sunday, and he punctuated his incredible day with an eagle and three consecutive birdies on the back nine for an 8-under 62. The flourish down the stretch saw Blair set the temporary clubhouse mark.
Despite Brian Harman eventually joining him for a T2 finish at 20-under, Zac’s scintillating 62 helped ensure that this would be a memorable week and one that goes a long way toward helping him retain his tour card.
“Yeah, not even close. Basically went from playing 18 or 36 holes every day for the last seven, eight years to not touching a club for five, six, seven months,” Blair added post-round when asked if the time away from the game was the longest he had gone without picking up a club.
"“It was cool though. Got to hang out with my family and good a golf course and do a lot of other fun stuff. Obviously cooler to shoot 62 on Sunday (laughter.)”"
That 62 earned Zac Blair a career-changing $1.78 million for his efforts at the Travelers this week, more than his last two seasons combined on tour.
More importantly for Zac, his play in Connecticut this past week puts him on the verge of securing his card.
A little over 25 points, or the equivalent of a top 31 finish or better in one of this season’s remaining events, will see Blair retain his card.
When that happens he will be able to look back upon his astonishing weekend in Cromwell in late June as the week that changed everything.