This past weekend, we saw the PGA make its annual stop in Monterey, California for the Pebble Beach Pro/Am Event. The event is one of the more well known tournaments on the yearly schedule because of the prestige of the Pebble Beach golf course, as well as the participation in the tournament by a wide variety of famous amateurs. For example, this year we saw Clint Eastwood, Bill Murray, and Peyton Manning playing alongside the pros. When it came to the professional side of the tournament, it was none other than Abbotsford native Nick Taylor who ended up with the trophy on Sunday, capping off a terrific week with a wire to wire victory for his second PGA tour win. After shooting a terrific 63 on Thursday, Taylor never gave away his lead, and found a way to battle through some adversity as he closed it out yesterday.
After Saturday’s round, Taylor held a one stroke lead over Phil Mickelson, who has 5 previous wins at Pebble Beach. Obviously, Sunday wasn’t going to be easy for Taylor with one of the best to ever play the game breathing down his neck at a course he’s dominated for years. Right out of the gates, Phil was -3 through 6 holes. However with an eagle on 6, Nick was -4, and had extended his lead to 2 strokes. Then, Taylor got a little lucky on 8 and 9 as Phil made a double bogey, and then another bogey. All of the sudden, they were separated by 5 shots with 9 holes to play. The wind was also picking up and the greens were drying out, meaning that the finishing holes would not be easy. With such a big lead, it’s hard to not let your mind wander a little and start imagining the feeling of hoisting up the trophy, but on the PGA tour, no lead is safe.
From holes 10 to 14, a possible disastrous end to a fantastic week was becoming a possibility. Taylor made 2 bogeys and a double bogey, going +4 in 5 holes, which cut his lead back down to 2 with 4 holes to play. This was the make or break part of the round for Taylor. He was sliding back, and even though Phil wasn’t playing his best golf, Taylor had to know that he couldn’t open the door much more for Mickelson. On top of that, Kevin Streelman was a few holes ahead playing some very solid golf. So on 15, after a double bogey on the last hole, the Canadian found himself to the right of the green, needing to get his chip close to guarantee a par. Now if it’s me needing a par like this after making double bogey on the previous hole to save even $10 with my friends, I’d be a little nervous. If I multiply the importance of that moment by a million, I may be able to put myself in Nick Taylor’s shoes. And what does he do? Taylor chips in for birdie, giving himself a three stroke lead once again, and also giving himself the momentum to steer the ship right back on track. Two holes later, he hit maybe his best shot of the day on the par 3 17th, sticking it to inside 10 feet and making a birdie putt to basically cement the win for himself.
The 31 year old Canadian didn’t necessarily have the prettiest Sunday, but sometimes you have to grind it out and win ugly. Sure, he got a little lucky that Phil didn’t have his best stuff on Sunday and that 4th place finisher Jason Day couldn’t make a putt inside 6 feet to save his life, but Taylor deserved the win. He became the first Canadian to win in wire-to-wire fashion (leading after every day) since 1960, and just the third to win multiple events on tour in the modern era. The tournament was also a big one for his career in terms of gaining confidence that he can do this type of thing again. His first win was 6 years ago in 2014, and sometimes after that much time between wins, the self doubt can creep in. This was also the first time Taylor had the lead after 3 rounds in a PGA event. Knowing that he has the nerves to hang in there and get the job done when all the eyes are on him will be huge for his future on the tour.
Of course, besides being part of an exclusive group of Canadian golfers and boosting his confidence, this win will give the B.C. boy some other nice bonuses as well. First of all, a pretty nice trophy and cheque for 1.4 million USD will be coming his way. Next, an exemption to both the Masters and PGA Championship, two of the four major tournaments on the PGA tour. This year will be his first trip to the Masters tournament, where he’ll join fellow Canadians Mike Weir, Corey Connors, and Adam Hadwin. Finally, every win on tour guarantees more years of playing on tour, so even if he goes through a rough patch, Taylor won’t be worrying about keeping his playing status.
This was a big win for Canadian golf as a whole, because it doesn’t happen that often that someone from the great white north gets it done on the PGA. However, with Taylor’s win this weekend and Adam Hadwin’s participation in the President’s Cup last November, the Canadian golf scene continues to improve. Also, if you’re looking to keep your eyes on the country’s best, make sure to keep tabs on Brooke Henderson. The 22 year old has won 9 times on the LPGA, including a a major championship that she won when she was only 18, which made her the youngest ever to win that event. She’s a three time Canadian Press athlete of the year award winner, and with one more win, Henderson will become the winningest professional golfer from Canada of all time.