Abbotsford, British Columbia’s Nick Taylor earned his second PGA TOUR title on Sunday, holding off Phil Mickelson, who was seeking his sixth AT&T Pro-Am Title.
Although Taylor, 31, successfully converted his first ever 54-hole lead on the PGA TOUR, earning (USD) $1.404 million in the process, it was not an easy walk along the stunning back nine of the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Taylor, at -17, was one stroke to the good to start the day and stretched that to a five-shot margin over Mickelson by the turn. But then the real tournament began.
Mickelson, seeking a record 15th win in California (Tiger Woods also has 14), narrowed the gap between himself and Taylor to two strokes through the 14th hole. At the time the winds were beginning to gust hard and Taylor appeared to be losing his grasp on the trophy with some shaky play.
“When I got the lead (by 5 shots through the 9th hole) I felt like we were going into the most difficult holes,” the Canadian shared afterward about his poor stretch on holes 11-14 where he gave up four shots to the course. “I knew pars were going to be awesome but, you, again, the shots I was hitting, I didn’t think they were that bad, and I just had to manage bogies from there.”
Grinding It Out
Finding some trouble as he did, instead of folding Taylor responded. Exactly when he had to do.
The former #1 ranked amateur in the world holed a birdie chip on the 15th hole, then laced an unlikely 8-iron tee shot to short distance at the iconic par-three, 17th, .
He converted and was able to keep the headcover on his driver to play the par-five, 18th. Instead he put on an iron clinic as he retained his wide margin over the field, ultimately beating Mickelson by five, and Kevin Streelman by four.
He walked off the final hole as the champion, able to share the moment with wife Andie, her family, and their 3-month-old son, Charlie. A jubilant moment after a day that had moments of turmoil.
The wild swings of the round were not lost on Taylor as he spoke immediately afterward.
“Yeah. that was amazing. Up and down day. You know I believed I could do it (win) because I’ve done it before, but to do it in that fashion, playing with Phil, that’ll give me more confidence going toward.”
Playing alongside Phil Mickelson, a player with a hall of fame record, and a sparkling one at Pebble Beach, Taylor says the test on Sunday was both winning the title and also fending off the five-time major champion.
“I felt like it was me against him and that was a big part of the challenge and I felt comfortable making that turn that it was just me and him. I wouldn’t say I felt intimidated. I knew I was playing well and I knew the conditions were tough.”
He added, “It’s a different feeling; you just don’t get that big of a lead that often. You try not to count the holes down, how many you have left, but those thoughts are going through your head, it’s impossible not to. I tried to just keep doing what I was doing. Luckily, it worked out.”
Taylor, who was ranked #229 in the Official World Golf Rankings headed into the week, will make a big jump when the new order is released. The 42 points earned by the win will more than double his eligible counting points.
For the victory he picks up (USD) $1.404 million and guarantees his place in the field at The Players Championship, the PGA Championship, and the 2021 Sentry of Tournament of Champions.
Taylor’s previous victory at the opposite-field 2014 Sanderson Farms Championship did not come with a ticket for a drive down Magnolia Lane, but this one does.
He becomes the 4th Canadian with a spot in the field at the 2020 Masters.
That’s huge for Taylor, who says he was just getting into golf when Tiger won his first title in Augusta in 1997. He was with his older brother and father in his basement when Mike Weir claimed the Masters in 2003, “standing up probably the entire time.”
“I always hoped that my first time there (at Augusta National) would be actually competing in the tournament. A lot of stuff is going take some time to sink in, but that one, it’s going to be incredible.”