Taylor wins Pebble Beach as Phil comes up short

By Doug FergusonFebruary 15, 2016, 12:05 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - Vaughn Taylor doesn't know how he lost his game. Even more mystifying was the way it returned.

His goal Sunday when he teed off in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, trailing Phil Mickelson by six shots, was to finish in the top 10 so he wouldn't have to rush down to Los Angeles and try to qualify for the next PGA Tour event.

It had been more than a decade since he won. It had been three years since he had a full PGA Tour card. And just 10 days ago, Taylor was throwing up in his hotel room in Bogota, Colombia, so sick that he withdrew from a Web.com Tour event and flew to Pebble Beach as an alternate. The one-time Ryder Cup player only had a carry bag with him to save money on baggage fees.

Taylor ran off four straight birdies on the back nine at Pebble Beach to close with a 7-under 65, and he wasn't sure it was enough when Mickelson stood over a 5-foot birdie putt to force a playoff. And then Taylor got one last surprise.

Mickelson missed.

''Just absolutely amazing,'' Taylor said. ''Didn't know if it would ever happen again, to be honest. Just lost a lot of confidence, lost a good bit of my game. I just kept working, grinding and kept at it. And I can't believe it actually happened today.''

Neither could Mickelson.

Lefty was going for his record-tying fifth victory at Pebble Beach, and the 43rd title of his Hall of Fame career. He had a two-shot lead to start the final round, lost the lead after five holes, rallied with a birdie on the 17th hole and then delivered two good shots to within 60 feet of the hole, just short of the green on the par-5 18th.

''It never crossed my mind that I wouldn't make that one,'' Mickelson said after his 72.


AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Articles, photos and videos


Taylor had never given up on his career, though he was starting to rule out another victory, and he never imagined returning home to Augusta, Georgia, to play in the Masters. He is the first player this year to qualify by winning.

''Playing in the Masters is my Super Bowl,'' Taylor said.

Taylor was No. 447 in the world and had never won a tournament against the best players. His previous two victories were the Reno-Tahoe Open (2004 and 2005), which is held opposite a World Golf Championship. He had a scare two years ago when his aluminum fishing boat capsized in a strong current, leading to a few moment of panic with cold water up his chin and a park ranger guiding him to shore.

He finished at 17-under 270 and earned $1.26 million, which is about $165,000 more than he made the last three years combined.

Jonas Blixt, the first player to catch Mickelson, made bogey on the par-5 14th to fall back and closed with four pars for a 69 to finish third. Hiroshi Iwata of Japan, who played with Mickelson in the final group, was one shot behind until he missed the 16th green and made bogey. He closed with a 72 to tie for fourth with Freddie Jacobson (71).

Taylor didn't look like much of a threat when he went out in 34, but he poured it on the back nine. He hit his approach to 3 feet on the 13th and to 12 feet on the dangerous par-5 14th. Coming out of the rough on the 15th, his ball hit the golf ball of Matt Jones and settled 2 feet away for a third straight birdie.

The real blow came at the 16th, a 30-foot birdie putt on one of the toughest greens at Pebble. He rammed it hard enough and watched it break back into the cup, and Taylor ran around the green to celebrate.

''I've had that putt before. It's a hard putt,'' Taylor said. ''I wasn't even thinking about making that putt. I knew it broke a lot, and it's a little uphill at the end. It's really easy to leave that putt short. I just flushed it. It was kind of going in from the start.''

He missed two good birdie chances on the last two holes, but still wound up a winner.

Taylor didn't even realize he was in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am - he still has limited status as a past PGA Tour winner - until Monday when he was learned Cal Pettersen had withdrawn. That no longer is a problem. He's in the Masters and PGA Championship, and he gets to set his own schedule for the next two years.

Jordan Spieth, the world's No. 1 player, closed with a 66 and tied for 21st, ending his streak of seven straight top 10s dating to September.

Mickelson at least left Pebble believing he was closer to ending the longest victory drought of his pro career that dates to the 2013 British Open.

''It's certainly disappointing, but it makes me more determined to get back to work and get this thing right,'' he said. ''I know that I'm close to being where I want to be. But if I was there, I would have been able to finish it off.''

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.