Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Nick Taylor denies Phil Mickelson on tough final day in California
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 10/02/20 12:32am
Nick Taylor withstood an early assault from Phil Mickelson and survived a nervy back-nine in testing conditions to complete a wire-to-wire victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Taylor led by five at the turn as Mickelson's quest for a record sixth title began to unravel at the eighth and ninth, and the left-hander was unable to claw back the deficit down the stretch as strong winds and a firm, fast course made for tough scoring.
In what soon developed as an apparent two-way shoot-out between the final pair, it was Taylor who took the spoils despite a number of mistakes on the back nine which Mickelson could not capitalise on as he became the first Canadian to win a PGA Tour title leading outright after all four rounds.
Taylor's one-shot overnight lead was wiped out when he missed a five-foot putt to match Mickelson's birdie at the second, but he was on target from double that range on the fourth before both hit cracking tee-shots into the short fifth which they converted for birdies.
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Mickelson gave himself a great chance to regain a share of the lead at the long sixth when he found the back of the green in two, but Taylor then struck a decisive blow when his long-range bunker splash-out ran straight into the cup for eagle.
The defending champion settled for a two-putt birdie, but a miscue with a long-iron off the eighth tee travelled only 180 yards and left him almost 250 yards for his approach, which bounded over the back of the green.
Mickelson compounded the errors when his ambitious flop-shot raced past the flag and off the putting surface, from where he got heavy-handed with his pitch and two-putts later he was marching to the ninth tee with a double-bogey six on his card.
Taylor encountered problems of his own but limited the damage to a single dropped shot, and a blocked approach to the ninth from Mickelson led to another bogey which the Canadian punished further with a perfect seven-footer for birdie.
Mickelson pulled one back when he clipped a wedge in close at the 10th, and the gap was back to three when Taylor pulled his drive into the left rough at the next and left a par putt inches short from just inside 20 feet.
Both players got their club selection wrong at the short 12th, where they airmailed the green and bogeyed, and Mickelson avoided back-to-back blemishes when he knocked in a bold 25-foot putt from the fringe to salvage a clutch par at the next.
With the wind gusting strong enough to blow Taylor's hat off as he contemplated his third shot to the 14th, the 31-year-old looked far from composed as he blocked a long-iron before his pitch trickled off the green and led to an ugly double-bogey seven.
However, Mickelson failed to take full advantage as he needed four strikes to find the putting surface before shaving the edge with his par attempt, and Taylor suddenly looked a rejuvenated figure when he atoned for a woeful wedge into 15 by chipping in for a priceless birdie.
Taylor's battling par at 16 was enough to extend his advantage to four strokes when Mickelson's approach came up short and led to a third bogey in five holes, although Kevin Streelman suddenly emerged as a credible threat when he followed birdies at 14 and 15 with another at 17 as he vaulted above Mickelson into outright second.
But Taylor strengthened his grip on the tournament when he drilled a pure eight-iron to six feet at the penultimate hole and rattled in the putt for birdie, and a conservative par at the 72nd hole completed a two-under 70 and a four-shot victory with a winning score of 19 under par.
It was also just his second win on the PGA Tour and came over five years after his first, at the Sanderson Farms Championship in November 2014 when he claimed a two-shot triumph over Boo Weekley and our recent addition to the Sky Sports Golf team - Jason Bohn.
Mickelson missed from eight feet for a closing birdie at the last as he signed for a 74 to finish third behind Streelman, who also collected the Pro-Am title for the second time in three attempts alongside NFL legend Larry Fitzgerald, ending up five strokes clear of Mickelson and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young.