A low-key week for Taylor is about to turn loud
February 08, 2020
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Nick Taylor leads by one after 54 holes at AT&T Pebble Beach
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – As Phil Mickelson was heating up before packed six-deep galleries on the back nine at Pebble Beach on Saturday, Nick Taylor was finishing up his third round before a handful of fans at the ninth hole at Spyglass Hill.
Taylor has led this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am after each of the first three rounds, but outside of a little interest Friday at Pebble Beach, he’s spent this week in relative obscurity, a tournament leader seen by few of its fans.
“I’m not going to draw a big crowd typically, other than people who know me,” said the sixth-year pro from Canada.
That, of course, changes on Sunday.
Taylor, at 17 under, will be in the last group at Pebble Beach, paired with defending champ Mickelson, who’s one shot back. The next closest pursuer is Jason Day, another two shots behind. Everyone else is at least six shots off the lead.
Thus, all eyes finally will be on Taylor with each swing Sunday. But he doesn’t expect those eyes to be accompanied by much vocal support.
“I know who they’re going to be pulling for,” he said. “… Obviously if he makes a putt or great shot, the crowd’s going to go wild. I’ve just got to do my own thing, try to block all that out.”
Mickelson will be going for a tournament-record sixth win. He’ll also be going for his 15th win in his home state; only Tiger Woods has as many California wins since 1983. And he’ll be going for the 45th win of his career.
And he’s doing all this at age 49. The crowds that Taylor will see for the first time this week have been following Mickelson for nearly three decades.
“It’s a special place,” Mickelson said after his 5-under 67 that showed off his short-game wizardry. “… Having that special connection with Pebble Beach and the Monterey Peninsula through my family going back to the first year Pebble Beach opened, my grandfather being one of the caddies, and being able to share last year’s experience with my brother (his caddie Tim) -- this has been a really fun family experience.”
Shot of the Day
Phil Mickelson's back-to-back birdies from off the green are the Shots of the Day
It’s also been a fun family experience for Day, who has his wife and kids in tow this week. His oldest son, 7-year-old Dash, has been particularly keen to see his dad play golf.
“He doesn’t really come out too much,” said Day, looking to finally win at Pebble Beach after top-5 finishes in his three most recent starts here, “but my wife said, did you hear him at all out there, because he can be a little loud.”
Meanwhile, it’s been a mostly low-key and not very loud experience this week for Taylor, whose lone PGA TOUR win came in his rookie season at the Sanderson Farms Championship in the fall of 2014. Since then, Taylor has made 125 TOUR starts; his lone top-5 finish in that span came in 2016 at the Puerto Rico Open.
While he didn’t enter this week as a notable name to watch, Taylor liked how his game was shaping up, and he certainly likes putting on poa annua, which he grew up on in Western Canada. An opening 63 at Monterey Peninsula, still the low round of the week, set the tone and Taylor’s been chugging along ever since.
The low-key approach has worked well for him.
“When you’re playing well, it’s easy to keep it low-key,” Taylor said. “I felt like our group has been very relaxed.”
His amateur partner is esteemed Golf Digest editor-in-chief Jerry Tarde, a winner of the PGA of America’s Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. For the first time in his nine starts as an amateur in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Tarde has made the team cut to Sunday. He’s definitely been impressed by what he’s seen from the Canadian this week.
“He’s so calm,” Tarde said Saturday. “That’s the amazing thing.”
The challenge for Taylor now is to remain calm in an environment that will be unlike what he’s seen for most of his career. He’s saying all the right things – “Just got to keep my head down, do my thing” – but it’ll be much tougher to put that into practice.
“I’ve played in front of big crowds – not consistent but I’ve done it enough to where it will be fun tomorrow,” Taylor said. “Need to kind of embrace it and see what happens.”
Now that he’s seen Taylor play so well, Tarde was asked if Golf Digest might have any future content devoted to him.
“Whenever we have a chance to meet somebody, we get to know him better and you begin to think of ways you can help him, whether it’s online or in the magazine,” Tarde responded. “I played golf with Luke Donald last year in a practice round and we ended up doing a swing instruction series with him on video.
“So yeah, I was just talking to him. We’d love to do a swing sequence, maybe an instruction article, an interview with him. He’s an impressive guy. Really shows you the depth of field here and how guys are just a good round away from stardom.”
On Sunday, Taylor would gladly settle for the winner’s trophy. After that, he can circle back with Tarde on what Golf Digest might do with him. Or even for him.
“Maybe,” smiled Taylor, “he’ll give me a free subscription.”