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Everyone on Super Bowl Sunday was focused on the wrong Taylor.
While Taylor Fast cheered on Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers, Nick Taylor deserved his chance at redemption.
A year after finishing second at the WM Phoenix Open to Scottie Scheffler, Taylor entered the final round tied for the lead at this year’s weather-delayed event, thanks in large part to opening the week with a record of 60.
But with a few gaps left, he seemed destined to fall short again. Charley Hoffman had built a three-shot lead and Taylor elected to stay on the par-5 15th from 254 yards.
“Our rule of thumb is honestly, if I don’t have a 5 and 4 iron in there, I’ve always put it aside for the last couple of years,” he said. “Even this morning the only reason I went for it was because of a back pin, which is super tricky with the soft greens to try and hit a wedge close, so I hit a hybrid right in front of the green and was able to birdie Mabel.
“But it wasn’t even a decision.”
It paid off when Taylor went up and down for birdie on 15, rolled in a six-footer on the stadium’s 16th hole for another and then rolled in a 10-footer for birdie on 18 to catch Hoffman on 21 under and a to force a play-off.
He then birdied the 18th twice more in the play-off and beat Hoffman’s par in the second play-off by 12 feet, winning his fourth PGA Tour title.
While not as dramatic as his 70-foot bomb that defeated Tommy Fleetwood last June – he became the first native Canadian to win the Canadian Open in almost seventy years – this victory came about in much the same way. It’s also a full-circle moment for the part-time Scottsdale resident after his close call a year ago.
Taylor fell outside the top 200 of the Official World Golf Ranking during last year’s edition of the Phoenix Open. Two victories later, he is now in the top 40 of the OWGR for the first time in his career.
His two-hole play-off came after he had already played 30 holes on Sunday, after the tournament was postponed several times throughout the week due to rain and frost. Taylor actually started the day with two bogeys in his first three holes, ending the front nine of his third round.
Taylor didn’t miss another shot after that, making three birdies to end the third round before heading straight back out for the final round, tied with Sahith Theegala.
“It was a marathon day,” Taylor said. “We signed our scorecard after the third round and I had eight minutes to get to the tee. I don’t know if that made me a little angry, but it was just a long day. Again, it was incredible to kind of find my swing the last nine or 10 holes and make a few birdies.
The final round quickly became a duel between Taylor, Scheffler, Hoffman and Sahith Theegala, but Hoffman took control with an eagle-birdie-birdie run at 13-15. On the same holes, Scheffler, looking to become the first player to three-peat at an event in more than a decade on the PGA Tour, missed three putts within five feet. He eventually finished T3 on 18 under with Sam Burns after a 64.
That left Taylor as Hoffman’s main challenger, after the 47-year-old – who is playing this season on a career waiver after losing his full-time status two years ago – two-putted from 70 feet on 17 to help him to reach the top. 21 under.
“I played my ass off. I gave myself a chance,” Hoffman said. “I knew if I reached that number 22 it would be difficult for him to catch me, and left one putt short in regular rules. But I love the juices. I like to compete. This creates a small fire in the belly. I definitely want to come back here.”
Taylor’s questionable decision to stay at 15 paid off when he turned his wedge to just one yard.
“My wedge game is a strength of my game,” he said. “That’s where it turned out. I did the same thing last year, but it didn’t work. I felt confident in the decision. I just knew that given the receptiveness of the greens, the wedge shot with the board was very doable there, and I thought that was my best playing percentage.”
He then stuffed his approach to the stadium hole, igniting the crowd, some of whom were already waiting in the stands before 7am.
Taylor blocked his tee shot exactly on 18, but his ball skipped out of the bunker and landed well in the Rough. He hit that to 10 feet and 30 minutes later played his approach from the same spot on the second playoff hole to set up the winning putt.