Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor stared down one of golf’s giants on Sunday, outplaying Phil Mickelson and becoming the first Canadian to win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Ontario’s Mike Weir finished four strokes out of first place back in 2009, but the prize at one of golf’s biggest tournaments had eluded Canadians for 82 years until Taylor put it all together.
Taylor started the four-day event off with the lowest round of any player, shooting a 63 on Thursday and he continued his strong play atop the leaderboard for the remainder of the event. He shot a 66 on Friday, a 69 on Saturday and clinched the title with a 70.
His total score of 268 was four shots up on American Kevin Streelman, and five up on Mickelson – who he was paired with during the final round. Mickelson, a legendary golfer with 44 PGA Tour wins to his credit, was a challenge for Taylor and he entered Sunday just one shot up on “Lefty”.
“I was just curious, to be honest. And he hit some amazing shots,” Taylor said of the taking on Mickelson. “I’m like, ‘Well, I don’t know if he can keep that up. If he can, great.’ But if I keep doing what I’m doing, plugging along … then try to make the guys behind me try to beat me.”
His remarkable Sunday featured birdies on holes 15 and 17 as he outdistanced Mickelson, essentially sealing the win with a clutch chip shot to earn his first birdie on the 15th hole.
Is this the shot that wins it for Nick Taylor? Sure looks like it pic.twitter.com/0u6zpIy0zY
— Fore Play (@ForePlayPod) February 9, 2020
Nick Taylor ain’t going down without a fight pic.twitter.com/k8UPPgIOMH
— Fore Play (@ForePlayPod) February 9, 2020
Mickelson, who was going for his sixth win at the event, was gracious in defeat.
“It’s disappointing certainly to have not won, but I got outplayed,” Mickelson stated. “I mean, Nick played better than I did. He holed a couple of great shots. That eagle on 6, the putts he made on 4, 5 and 7 … he just really played some great golf.”
Taylor hadn’t won on the tour in over five years, and said he will savour this one.
“I believed I could do it because I’ve done it before,” he said. “But to do it in that fashion, playing with Phil, gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”
My favourite place with my favourite people! What a week. Incredible to share this special moment with Andie and Charlie. It’s an honour to be the 2020 @attproam Champion. It was a memorable day getting to battle @PhilMickelson in tough conditions, and I’m grateful to have come pic.twitter.com/F3apzR6qns
— Nick Taylor (@ntaylorgolf59) February 11, 2020
Over at Abbotsford’s Ledgeview Golf and Country Club, where Taylor honed his game and is still a member, many were watching and were thrilled to see him earn the win.
“The members at Ledgeview have had the pleasure of watching Nick play at a high level for a long time,” said Ledgeview president Chris Gaudet. “It never gets old. Watching him win at the famous Pebble Beach was a great treat. What stood out to me, watching Nick on Sunday, was how focused he remained as the ocean winds picked up and he made a few bogies. Up to the very end, his focus and demeanour never changed.”
Gaudet went on to congratulate the entire Taylor family and noted that he is looking forward to seeing him back on the local links, especially in September for the annual Nick Taylor Charity Pro-Am event.
Beautiful family photo of the Taylor's.
Nick, Andie and future member of Ledgeview Charlie.
Well deserved win Nick, we are all very proud of you and cant wait for whats to come. Enjoy this win with your family. pic.twitter.com/XF1vJPoDGw
— Ledgeview Golf (@LedgeviewGolf) February 11, 2020
The win comes with some massive benefits for Taylor, as he takes home $1.4 million USD, receives a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour, gets an invite to the Tournament of Champions event next year and also perhaps most importantly means he qualifies for the 2020 Masters Tournament in April.
It will be Taylor’s first-ever trip to the Masters, considered by many to be the top tournament in the golf world.
“I’ve dreamt of playing that tournament my entire life,” he said. “That’s going to be a dream come true.”
The 2020 Masters will have a unique Abbotsford flavour, as Ledgeview product Adam Hadwin also qualified to compete at the event after finishing in the the top 50 of the world golf rankings for 2019.
The Masters runs from April 9 to 12 in Augusta, Ga.
-With files from Canadian Press