Vaughn Taylor wins at Pebble Beach

Taylor reacts to his long birdie putt on 16.

Taylor reacts to his long birdie putt on 16.

Vaughn Taylor charged on Sunday at Pebble Beach, blowing past a star-studded field to hang on for his first PGA Tour win since 2005.

What Happened

When the final round started on Sunday at Pebble, Taylor was an afterthought as the focus was on Phil Mickelson. Mickelson carried a two-shot lead over Hiroshi Iwata while Freddie Jacobson was three back and Jonas Blixt was four behind. Taylor was well back of Mickelson’s lead, sitting six behind at the start of play and after a two-under par front nine, it didn’t really seem like a win was in the cards but he was still in it because the leaders weren’t separating themselves from the pack.

Taylor started his run on the back nine with a birdie on 10 and after pars on the 11th and 12th, he made back to back birdies on 13 and 14 before heading to the par-4 15th where he got a little lucky.

Vaughn Taylor plays a little pinball.

Vaughn Taylor plays a little pinball.

Taylor’s ball was likely going to end in a good spot, but when he hit Matt Jones’ ball, he ended up right near the cup, leading to an easy birdie. What wasn’t so easy was the par-4 16th, where Taylor left himself a long birdie putt to extend his lead on Mickelson.

Taylor hits it right in the middle.

Taylor hits it right in the middle.

So, what happened to Mickelson? To be honest, he didn’t seem right all day and whenever he seemed to be breaking out of whatever funk he was in, he would give another shot back. He started his day with three pars before making back to back bogeys on the fourth and fifth. Two birdies closed out his front nine in level par, but it was more of the same on the back nine until he came to the 17th, sitting two shots back of Taylor’s lead.

With that putt, Mickelson needed to make a birdie on the 18th to force a playoff with Taylor, who finished his day with a pair of pars. Mickelson was in good position after two shots, standing right in front of the green with tons of room to work with. Knowing his short game, getting up and down seemed like a sure thing but Mickelson hit a poor (for him) pitch, leaving him with five feet to tie Taylor.

Phil misses on 18.

Phil misses on 18.

With that miss, Taylor had his first win on the PGA Tour in nearly eleven years.

Final Leaderboard

  • 1. Vaughn Taylor -17
  • 2. Phil Mickelson -16
  • 3. Jonas Blixt -15
  • T4. Freddie Jacobson -14
  • T4. Hiroshi Iwata -14

What The Win Means For Taylor

Vaughn Taylor and family react to his win at Pebble.

Vaughn Taylor and family react to his win at Pebble.

When people think about pro golfers, I think the assumption is that many of them are living the high life without a care in the world, but the reality of the situation is that for every Ian Poulter, there’s probably ten guys like Vaughn Taylor: struggling tour pros, who sure, have made some money in their time but for whatever reason, just haven’t been able to keep it together when it comes to on-course success. Taylor has worked his ass off to get back to the winner’s circle, and that was obvious when he and his family realized he won in the GIF above and in his interview with Dottie Pepper below.

Jason Sobel wrote a good piece for ESPN.com about what Taylor has overcome to get to this point, and it’s worth your time. This is a guy who just two weeks ago was riding the buses on the Web.com Tour and withdrew from their last event because of an injury. He didn’t even have a card on either tour, got into this event based on past champion status and now he’s exempt for on the big tour for the next two years. That means the world to a player like Taylor, and even though projecting future success for Taylor probably isn’t the best idea, this win breathes some air into a career that has needed it for some time. The particulars:

  • Earns $1,260,000 for the victory.
  • Fully exempt on the PGA Tour for the next two seasons.
  • Returns to his home city of Augusta for his first Masters appearance since 2008. It’ll also be the first time he’s teed it up in any major since the 2010 PGA Championship.
  • Moves from 447th in the Official World Golf Rankings to 100th, his highest ranking since November of 2010.

What The Loss Means For Mickelson

You shouldn’t feel too bad for Mickelson, who remains winless since the 2013 Open Championship. Obviously, the win itself means more to Taylor than it ever would to Mickelson, but outside of that, the last few weeks have shown that Mickelson is making some progress in his game and that he’s far from being done as a competitor on the PGA Tour. I would have bet a ton of money, and I’m sure Mickelson would have as well, on him getting up and down for birdie on the 18th to force that playoff with Taylor but it didn’t happen and it crystallized what I wrote about a few weeks ago about how it’s time to really start appreciating Mickelson and what time we have left with him on the PGA Tour.

The Television Coverage

Jim Nantz, Nick Faldo, Larry the Cable Guy and Gary Mule Deer.

Larry the Cable Guy, Gary Mule Deer, Jim Nantz, and Nick Faldo.

Last year, I wrote a piece about how I would fix this tournament from a broadcast standpoint because it’s no secret that the coverage, especially on Saturday, makes this tournament very difficult to enjoy. There’s too much of a focus on the “celebrities” and since it’s played over three courses, we don’t get to see all of the players because they don’t have cameras everywhere, which leads to Peter Kostis telling us why Raj from Big Bang Theory has a pretty good move through the ball. Jimmy Walker shot a 63 on Saturday at Pebble, where they had cameras, and he wasn’t shown a single time. Lance Barrow at CBS will tell you that it’s not a regular tournament, and I totally understand that but surely there’s something that can be done to make it, at least, a little more palatable for the people who want to watch a tournament played on a course as revered as Pebble Beach.

Unfortunately, if Phil Mickelson at Pebble can’t generate attention from CBS, it’s hard to see this changing soon. To be fair, they were better on Sunday, but thanks to the thirty minute blackout period from 2:30 to 3:00 ET, we missed the leaders playing on 6 and 7 which just happen to be two of the best on the course. Tron Carter of the No Laying Up crew has had enough as well, and he posted a Twitter essay from Saturday that is incredibly on point.

Best Moments

Tweets

Shots

Really good flop from Patrick Reed.

Really good flop from Patrick Reed.

#TourSauce

Jordan Spieth with the new record for quickest club twirl after impact.

Jordan Spieth with the new record for quickest club twirl after impact.

Broadcast Moments

The time when Golf Channel showed us the course we actually want to see.

The time when Golf Channel showed us the course we actually want to see.

A golf broadcast.

A golf broadcast.

Stray Thoughts

  • In part due to the TV coverage, there were some sneaky good finishes by big names. Patrick Reed and Justin Rose (T6), Brooks Koepka and Bill Haas (T8), Jimmy Walker and Jason Day (T11).
  • It’s a great sign for Jordan Spieth that he can finish tied for 21st and people are probably disappointed, but the Sunday 66 is what people should be focused on. Really looking forward to seeing him tee it up next week at Riviera.

Next Week

The Northern Trust Open at my favourite course on tour, Riviera. The field is loaded too as you can see below.

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