Golf

Canada's Nick Taylor goes wire-to-wire to win at Pebble Beach

Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., led wire-to-wire to win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, for his second career victory on the PGA Tour.

Abbotsford, B.C. native earns his 2nd career victory on PGA Tour

Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., poses with the trophy after winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at Pebble Beach Golf Links on February 9, 2020 in Pebble Beach, Calif. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Nick Taylor had more trouble with the wind than he did with Phil Mickelson. The Canadian managed both just fine Sunday and won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am for his second career victory.

With the gallery eager to see Mickelson add a record sixth victory at Pebble Beach, Taylor, from Abbotsford, B.C., showed plenty of moxie in building a five-shot lead at the turn and then holding on when 65 km/h gusts blasted the Monterey Peninsula.

He closed with a 2-under 70 for a four-shot victory over Kevin Streelman (68). Mickelson, who closed within two shots with four holes to play, shot 74 and finished alone in third. He has won, been runner-up twice and finished third in his last four starts at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Taylor won in his fourth start as a PGA Tour rookie at the 2014 Sanderson Farms Championship in Miss., at the time an opposite-field event that didn't feature any of the top players. He went 146 starts on the PGA Tour until his next victory, and it was a big one.

WATCH | Highlights from Taylor's win at Pebble Beach:

The 31-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C. finished with a 2-under 70 for a four-shot victory. 1:21

In his sixth year on tour, Taylor has played only two majors as a pro, but this victory earns him a spot in the PGA Championship up the coast at Harding Park in May.

It also gets Taylor into the Masters for the first time, joining countrymen Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont., Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., and fellow Abbotsford, B.C. native Adam Hadwin. It marks the first time four Canadians will tee-off at the Masters.

Taylor is the first Canadian to win at Pebble Beach, and he also becomes only the seventh Canadian to win multiple tournaments on the PGA Tour, joining Dave Barr, Stan Leonard, Stephen Ames , Al Balding, George Knudson and Weir.

Among that group, only Taylor, Ames and Weir have won multiple tournaments in golf's modern era.

"That was amazing," Taylor said. "I believed I could do it because I've done it before. But to do it in that fashion, playing with Phil, gives me a lot of confidence going forward."

Was Taylor really as steely as he seemed, though?

"On the inside? Probably not," said Taylor with a laugh. "I did feel calm all week and today, but I definitely started feeling some nerves middle of the back nine with really difficult holes and making some bogeys.

"Phil was making bogeys alongside me so it's not like I was making bad bogeys, it didn't feel like. It was just playing so difficult."

Taylor started the final round with a one-shot lead over Mickelson, and they were tied after Lefty got up-and-down from a bunker on the par-5 second.

Seven holes later, Taylor had a five-shot lead.

He holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the fourth, a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-3 fifth, and then he holed a bunker shot for eagle on the par-5 sixth hole, the kind of short-game shot everyone expected out of Mickelson.

Mickelson's round takes a left-turn

And then it got ugly for Mickelson.

He went over the green at No. 8 and played an aggressive chip that rolled by the flag, down the slope and back into the fairway. He pitched the next one too far and made double bogey, and then made bogey on the ninth as Taylor holed a 7-foot birdie to go five shots ahead.

Thanks to the wind, it wasn't quite over.

Five holes later, Mickelson had cut the lead to two despite having only one birdie putt, a tap-in on No. 10. Taylor ran into tree trouble off the tee at No. 11, flew the green into a back bunker on No. 12 and then took double bogey on the par-5 14th hole when he found a bunker off the tee, could only advance it about 100 yards and took five to reach the green.

The wind was blowing so hard at that point that Taylor's cap blew off his head and he had to chase it down the fairway before hitting his third shot from 227 yards away.

Mickelson, however, missed his chances to capitalize on Taylor's mistakes.

He came up short of the 11th green from just under 100 yards with Taylor in trouble. He didn't hit a green in regulation after his tap-in birdie on the 10th until his tee shot on the par-3 17th that settled 40 feet away.

Taylor seized control by chipping in for birdie on the 15th for a three-shot lead, and the knockout punch was his tee shot to 6 feet below the hole for birdie on the 17th.

He finished at 19-under 268, earning a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour.

The win also puts Taylor into the Olympic conversation. He joins Hadwin and Conners as a potential member of Canada's Olympic team at this summer's Tokyo Games. Canada's two highest-ranked male players in the world golf rankings will compete in the Olympics.

"It's disappointing certainly to have not won, but I got outplayed," Mickelson said. "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."

Mickelson wasn't the only player who struggled.

Dustin Johnson shot a 78. Matt Every, in the third-to-last group, shot 80. Jason Day closed with a 75.

The best round and best finish belonged to Jordan Spieth, who chipped in to save par on his final hole for a 67. It was the low round of the day and enabled Spieth to finish in a tie for ninth. That narrowly moves him back into the top 50 and makes him eligible for a World Golf Championship in Mexico City in two weeks.

Streelman also leaves with a trophy. He teamed with Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald to easily win the pro-am for the second time in three years.

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC Sports

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