Ziemer's B.C. Golf Notes: Taylor rides hot putter to Phoenix Open playoff win; UBC, SFU golfers back on course; Du Toit to make Asian Tour debut at Malaysian Open

BC's Nick Taylor Putted Brilliantly At The WM Phoenix Open - Image Credit Bryan Outram/BC Golf

By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf

Nick Taylor did more than win the WM Phoenix Open in dramatic fashion by birdieing three of his final four holes and then adding two more in a sudden-death playoff with Charley Hoffman.

Taylor served notice that he is right now Canada’s best male player and, quite frankly, a world-class talent who seems to have that ability to rise to the occasion and perform at his best in the big moments.

He went head to head and beat Phil Mickelson four years ago at Pebble Beach and last year battled Scottie Scheffler before settling for second place in Phoenix. And of course there was that fairytale win eight months ago at the RBC Canadian Open. For many years, Taylor flew under the radar on the PGA TOUR. Not anymore.

His former PGA TOUR colleague, Graham DeLaet, described it best a couple of hours before Taylor sealed the deal in Phoenix with an absolutely brilliant display of wedge play and putting. “Nick Taylor is so underrated, especially when the moment is big,” DeLaet wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “Canadian Open, head to head final group with Phil at Pebble, 2023 WM head to head with Rahm and Scheffler. The guy is a killer.”

Delaet resisted the temptation to follow that up with an “I told you so” post after Taylor rolled in a nine-foot putt on the second playoff hole for the win. That win, worth $1,584,000, puts Taylor in great position to fulfil a couple of big goals he talked about during the off-season: representing Canada at this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris and making the International team for the Presidents Cup later in the summer in Montreal.

“This is obviously a good start,” Taylor said at his winner’s news conference. “I would love nothing more than to play in those two events.” The Phoenix win was Taylor’s fourth on the PGA TOUR. That’s two more than any of the other Canadians currently on tour have. At No. 28 on the latest Official World Golf Ranking, Taylor is now the highest ranked Canadian.

He began the Phoenix tournament at TPC Scottsdale with a career-best round of 11-under 60 when he drained almost every putt he looked at. His putter was red-hot again in the final round as Taylor rolled in one clutch putt after another. When he was in trouble, his strong wedge play bailed him out.

The NBC television crew questioned his decision to lay up on the par 5 15th hole when he was trailing Hoffman by three shots. All Taylor did was step up and stick his wedge approach to three feet to set up an easy birdie. “My wedge game is the strength of my game,” Taylor said. “I was confident in the decision. I just knew that with how receptive the greens were, the wedge shot with the backboard there was very doable, and I thought that was my best percentage play.”

As for his putting, Taylor said he has become a much more consistent putter since switching to the claw grip about a year ago. Taylor, who made nearly 500 feet of putts during the week, was asked if he had ever putted any better than he did over the four days in Phoenix. “Probably not,” he said with a smile. “Probably not.”

When he won the Canadian Open last summer, Taylor’s wife Andie and their two children were home in Abbotsford. They were all there to celebrate his win in their winter home of Scottsdale. You may have seen the initials C and H on Taylor’s golf ball during the TV coverage. Those represent his two kids, four-year-old son Charlie and nine-month-old daughter Harper.

“It’s the best,” Taylor said of having his family there to share the experience. “At the Canadian Open they weren’t there and it killed me, but this was just amazing.”

Fellow Abbotsford native Adam Hadwin, who missed the cut in Phoenix, was also there on Sunday to congratulate Taylor. Unlike the Canadian Open celebrations, this time Hadwin emerged unscathed. “He pointed out he wore the same outfit, but he dodged security this time, so it’s good,” Taylor said with a chuckle.

Taylor had to come from three shots back to tie Hoffman at 21-under and force the playoff. He rolled in a nine-foot putt for birdie to send things to a playoff and then birdied it two more times in the playoff.
In the last year, Taylor seems to have taken his game to a new level and is excited about where it might take him.

“There’s a lot of great events coming up,” he said. “Obviously this one was a home game, and the Masters, this will only be my second time playing. I have a lot to look forward to and kind of keep my head down and grind.”

Taylor, who is now third in the International Presidents Cup team standings, is just the second Canadian to win the Phoenix Open. George Knudson won it back in 1968.

SPRING SEASON: The University of B.C. and Simon Fraser University men’s golf teams begin their spring seasons this week at events in southern California. The T-Birds, who swept their fall schedule, are playing in the Vanharte Orange County Collegiate Classic at Monarch Golf Links in Dana Point. The tournament is being co-hosted by Cal State Fullerton and the University of California-Irvine. Simon Fraser tees off its spring schedule at the California State San Marcos Fujikura Invitational in Vista, Calif.

TOWILL TURNS PRO: The University of B.C.-Okanagan Heat will begin their spring season in early March without two-time Canada West champion Justin Towill. The Kelowna native graduated in December and has turned pro. Towill is currently playing on the Asher Tour in the Phoenix area. “As far as being a human being and teammate goes, JT is the best,” said Heat coach Clay Stothers. “Obviously, we are extremely excited for him and wish him the best as he begins this new journey.”

ASIAN DEBUT: Kimberley’s Jared du Toit will make his Asian Tour debut at this week’s IRS Prima Malaysian Open at The Mines Resort & Golf Club in Kuala Lumpur. The 72-hole event offers a purse of $1 million US. Du Toit qualified for this season’s Asian Tour at the circuit’s qualifying school final last month in Thailand. The Malaysian Open is an Open Series Qualifying Series event. The top three players not otherwise exempt who make the cut will earn places in the 152nd Open Championship at Royal Troon in Scotland this July. Du Toit hopes to draw into next week’s International Series event in Oman that features a $2.5-million purse. He was first alternate heading into the Malaysia event.

TOP 10 FOR ALLENBY: Langley’s James Allenby tied for eighth at last week’s Santa Barbara Open in California. Allenby closed with a two-under 69 to finish the 54-hole Asher Tour event at even par. That was eight shots behind winner Devon Bing of Sacramento, Calif. Allenby has a place in this week’s Bakersfield Open, which offers a winner’s prize of $30,000.

JUNIOR QUALIFIER: The Hills at Portal Golf Club in Surrey is playing host to a qualifier for the Notah Begay III Canadian Junior Golf Championship. The 18-hole qualifier goes March 30 and entries are available for a special price of $49 US using the promo code NOTAH50 at www.jgnc.org. Players at The Hills event will be attempting to qualify for the 36-hole B.C. provincial final to be played April 27-28. The top provincial players will advance to the national championship, which will be played July 29-20 in Kahnawake, Que.

CHIP SHOTS: The Pacific Northwest Golf Association’s 2024 championship schedule includes one British Columbia stop. The PNGA Senior & Super Senior Championship will be played Sept. 10-12 at Beach Grove Golf Club in Tsawwassen. . .Isaac Lee of Meadow Gardens won a Vancouver Golf Tour winter tour event at Kings Links in Delta. Lee’s Stableford score of 40 points was one better than Jake Lane of Charlie Lake.