National Post (National Edition)

Taylor's drive is paying off


It's one of the most contentiou­s topics in golf, but the defending champion at this week's AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am didn't shy away.

“I really don't understand the whole uproar,” Canadian Nick Taylor told Postmedia.

He wasn't talking about rolling back golf equipment, or allowing rangefinde­rs in tournament­s, or even Patrick Reed's latest escapades. It's a chilly week in California on the Monterey Peninsula, so Taylor was talking hoodies.

“I have one, but I haven't busted it out in competitio­n,” he said of the sweaters dividing the golf world. “I do enjoy it in casual rounds, but I haven't pulled the trigger yet. I may this week if it gets cold enough.”

It doesn't take long to recognize that Taylor isn't really the uproar type. The amiable 32-year-old carries the same measured, patient demeanour in conversati­on as he has shown on the golf course in seven years on the PGA Tour.

Taylor returns to Pebble Beach this week, where last year he led wire-to-wire and took down Phil Mickelson on a blustery Sunday to win by four strokes. The victory was the Abbotsford, B.C., native's second on the PGA Tour, making him the first of his generation of Canadian men to win twice on the game's biggest stage. That's one ahead of fellow Canucks Adam Hadwin, Mackenzie Hughes, and Corey Conners. But Taylor didn't have much opportunit­y to needle his pals before a worldwide pandemic set in.

“There wasn't a lot of time for bragging rights right after I had won, and then when I came back in the summer everyone was whooping me,” Taylor said. “But to get a second win, and kind of back up that first one, meant a lot to me, proved that I could do it again. There was a long time period in there where I was in contention a little bit but definitely not as much as I would want.”

Taylor's first win came in just his fourth start during his rookie PGA Tour season in 2014 at the Sanderson Farms Championsh­ip. It was a dream start to a career in the big leagues but it was no easy road to get there. After becoming the world No. 1 ranked amateur in 2009 and winning the Ben Hogan award as best player in U.S. college in 2010, Taylor turned pro and found that immediate success wasn't in the cards, spending three years in Canada on what's now the Mackenzie Tour. In fact, Taylor's difficulty making the jump from topranked amateur to the PGA Tour was a catalyst to Golf Canada rethinking its developmen­tal plan to offers its players increased support throughout the transition from amateur to pro.

In the years that followed his 2014 win, Taylor worked his way in contention enough to stay on tour but not as much as he would have liked. In 2018 and 2019 he finished the season narrowly inside the all-important top-125 needed to maintain full playing privileges.

“Well, you're trying to win when you tee it up every week, but looking back there were a couple of years where I was really fighting for my card,” Taylor said. “It was a strange mentality to have and not really one that you want. You're almost worried about your job let alone trying to win a tournament and that's when you can get lost out here sometimes.”

If Taylor's patience was tested over the years, he wasn't letting on. Despite great expectatio­ns after a stellar amateur career, and seeing the immediate success this latest generation of young players are having, Taylor maintains a great perspectiv­e on all he's accomplish­ed.

“That six-year gap to the average fan seems like a long time between wins,” he said. “But two wins, it's not easy. The competitio­n is very deep and it's very difficult to win. If you told me when I left college that 10 years into turning pro I'd be out on tour for seven years and have a couple wins? Now, you have high hopes and dreams, but that would be hard to turn down.”

Taylor looks to defend his title at Pebble Beach beginning Thursday at 1:09 p.m. ET playing alongside Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.

 ?? HARRY HOW / GETTY IMAGES ?? Abbotsford native Nick Taylor returns to Pebble Beach, where last year he led wire-towire and took down Phil Mickelson on a blustery Sunday to win by four shots.
HARRY HOW / GETTY IMAGES Abbotsford native Nick Taylor returns to Pebble Beach, where last year he led wire-towire and took down Phil Mickelson on a blustery Sunday to win by four shots.

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