Will Zalatoris was naturally rusty as he returned to action at the Hero World Challenge after seven months out injured, but it was a familiar story in terms of his putting letting him down.
Zalatoris made a switch to the broomstick putter for his PGA Tour return in the Bahamas, sporting the longer flat stick as used by Adam Scott and Lucas Glover, but despite the stats one former pro saw some promising signs.
The 27-year-old ended up propping up the 20-man field at the Hero World Challenge on nine over, with Brian Harman and Tony Finau leading on five under.
As usual, tournament sharpness, or lack of, often shows itself in the short game more than any other area, and Zalatoris certainly struggled on the greens at Albany Golf Club.
Zalatoris was bottom of the pile in terms of the strokes gained putting stats in the first round, losing almost six shots on the field.
It was a struggling start for Zalatoris with his new putter, which he'll naturally need time to settle with as well as getting used to being back out on the golf course in competitive action.
Zalatoris had to withdraw from the Masters in April before undergoing back surgery, and for now he'll be happy just to return to action - even if it is overshadowed by also being the tournament Tiger Woods has chosen for his latest comeback.
He's always been an elite ball striker but in three seasons on the PGA Tour he was always outside the top 100 in Strokes Gained: Putting - which many felt was the only thing stopping him from winning a Major.
A lot of hate in the comments here… Willy Z hasn’t played in 7 months competitively and his first day back was with an entirely new putter on a windy day. I personally love the way he rolls it with the 🧹 even though the ball wasn’t going in the hole yesterday. Just needs reps! https://t.co/d9M7ihHIAdDecember 1, 2023
But despite plenty of comments about his putting on social media, former pro-turned-commentator Smylie Kaufman offered some words of encouragement as Zalatoris debuted the broomstick.
"Willy Z hasn’t played in 7 months competitively and his first day back was with an entirely new putter on a windy day," Kaufman wrote on X. "I personally love the way he rolls it...even though the ball wasn’t going in the hole yesterday. Just needs reps!"
When discussing his putter switch before the Hero, Zalatoris said the move was in part to help reduce stress on his back but also to try and find a way of improving on the greens.
He also said he'd be patient with his new flat stick, and after a stuttering start that will be tested as he tries to find the key that could unlock plenty of wins if his long game is as good as it was before his injury layoff.