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Who is Nick Taylor (TaylorMade TP5)?
That was probably a question on the minds of anyone who watched the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am last week. The unheralded Canadian led after the first round and continued that until the end, braving some blustery conditions on the final day and paired with five-time champion Phil Mickelson (Callaway Chrome Soft X). With the crowd clearly cheering for Mickelson, the reigning champion and bidding for a record sixth title, the pressure was clearly on Taylor.
Let’s put some context into this, Taylor entered the tournament with only one victory on the PGA Tour since joining it in the 2014-15 season. He won the Sanderson Farms Championship early in his first year, but hadn’t done anything of note since then.
He had every reason to buckle at any point in the AT&T Open, which had a qualify field featuring many of the top players on the tour, particularly when the pressure started to mount after the 36-hole cut and the partisan support for Mickelson heightened. Even on the back nine when he started to go through a run of four consecutive bogeys and one double bogey, Taylor could have become mentally unhinged.
But then came a shot that showed Taylor’s mettle. He holed out from the fringe on the 15th hole and never looked back. Meanwhile, Mickelson started to come undone, finishing with a final round two-over-par to finish third behind Kevin Streelman (Titleist Pro V1x), who carded a final round of four-under-par to claim second place, four shots back of Taylor.
The victory by Taylor was the first ever by a Canadian in the tournament. Overall, there have been a lot of golfers north of the border that have started to make an impression on the PGA Tour: Corey Conners (Titleist Pro V1), Adam Hadwin (Callaway Chrome Soft Soft) and Mackenzie Hughes (Titleist Pro V1), to name the three most prominent ones. Hadwin has played in the last two Presidents Cups, the most recent one last year as a Captain’s pick. So there’s a strong program developing in Canada, which last had a star when Mike Weir (Titleist Pro V1x) won the Masters in 2003.
Brooke Henderson (Titleist Pro V1) has become Canada’s greatest golfer in the last few years. She is currently ranked seventh in the women’s world golf rankings.
LEFTY MOVES UPWARD: Prior to the start of the AT&T Open, the story line on Mickelson was that he didn’t want an exemption going into this year’s U.S. Open, the one major he hasn’t won in his illustrious career. Mickelson needs to finish in the top 60 in the world rankings as of May 18 following the PGA Championship or on June 15, the final ranking before the U.S. Open begins. June 15. He is currently 55th after beginning last week 72nd overall. So for fans of Mickelson – and he has a legion of them – there is hope that he will qualify for the U.S. Open on his own terms. It would be a shame if he decided to not accept an exemption for the tournament, even if it has been a source of frustration for him, finishing second six times and finding the conditions ridiculous because of sleek greens.