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Nick Taylor rallies to win WM Phoenix Open in playoff

Everyone on Super Bowl Sunday was focused on the wrong Taylor.

While Taylor Swift was cheering on beau Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers, Nick Taylor was earning his shot at redemption.

One year after finishing second at the WM Phoenix Open to Scottie Scheffler, Taylor entered the final round tied for the lead of this year’s weather-delayed event largely on the strength of opening the week with a record-setting 60.

But with a few holes left, he seemed destined to come up short again. Charley Hoffman had built a three-shot lead and Taylor chose to lay up on the par-5 15th from 254 yards.

“Our rule of thumb is honestly if I don’t have a 5-iron, 4-iron going in, I’ve always laid up the last handful of years,” he said. “Even this morning, the only reason I went for it, it was a back pin, which is super tricky with the soft greens to try to hit a wedge close, so I hit a hybrid just short of the green and was able to make Mabel birdie.

“But it wasn’t even a decision.”

It paid off as Taylor got up and down for birdie on 15, rolled in a six-footer at the stadium hole 16th for another and then curled in a 10-footer for birdie on 18 to catch Hoffman at 21 under and force a playoff.

He then birdied the 18th twice more in the playoff, defeating Hoffman’s par on the second playoff with an 11-footer to win his fourth PGA Tour title.

While not as dramatic as his 72-foot bomb to beat Tommy Fleetwood last June — becoming the first native Canadian to win the Canadian Open in nearly seven decades — this win came in nearly the same manner. It also makes a full-circle moment for the part-time Scottsdale resident after his close call one year ago.

Taylor entered last year’s edition of the Phoenix Open outside the top 200 in the Official World Golf Ranking. Two wins later and he’ll now be inside the top 40 of the OWGR for the first time in his career.

His two-hole playoff came after he had already played 30 holes Sunday after the tournament was delayed several times throughout the week due to rain and frost. Taylor actually began the day with two bogeys in his first three holes to end the front nine of his third round.

Taylor didn’t drop a shot after that, making three birdies to close the third round before going right back out for the final round in a tie for the lead with Sahith Theegala.

“It was a marathon day,” Taylor said. “We signed our scorecard after the third round, and I had eight minutes to go to the tee. I don’t know if that riled me a little bit, but it was just a long day. Again, to find my swing a bit the last nine or ten holes and make some birdies was incredible.”

The final round quickly became a duel between Taylor, Scheffler, Hoffman and Sahith Theegala, but Hoffman took control with an eagle-birdie-birdie run on 13-15. On the same holes, Scheffler, who was seeking to become the first player to three-peat at an event in more than a decade on the PGA Tour, missed three putts inside six feet. He ended up finishing T3 at 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 money exemption after losing his full-time status two years ago — made a 70-foot two-putt on 17 to help him reach 21 under.

“I played my butt off. I gave myself a chance,” Hoffman said. “I knew if I got to that 22 number it would be hard for him to catch me, and left a putt short in regulation. But I love the juices. I love competing. This builds a little fire in the belly. I definitely want to be back here.”

Taylor’s questionable decision to lay up on 15 paid off when he spun his wedge to just three feet.

“My wedge game is a strength of my game,” he said. “It turned out there. Last year, I did the same thing, and it didn’t turn out. 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.”

He then stuffed his approach at the stadium hole, igniting the crowd, some of whom had been waiting in the stands since before 7 a.m.

Taylor blocked his tee shot right on 18 but his ball skipped out of the bunker and into a good lie 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 put.

Source: Golf