LOS ANGELES: Journeyman Vaughn Taylor surged to victory in the PGA Tour’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Sunday (Monday in Manila), firing a seven-under 65 for a one-shot victory over five-time major winner Phil Mickelson.
For Taylor, it was the end of a victory drought stretching to 2005, while Mickelson remained in search of his first US PGA Tour title since the 2012 British Open.
Mickelson had birdied 17 and had a chance to force a playoff with a birdie at 18, but to his shock his five-foot putt lipped out to leave Taylor to celebrate his victory on 17-under par 270.
Mickelson had looked poised to end his long dry spell when he took a two-shot lead into the final round of the Northern California tournament he has won four times.
But an even par round of 72 that included four bogeys and two birdies wasn’t enough to get the job done and he settled for second on 271.
“I’m certainly disappointed that I wasn’t able to put it together,” Mickelson said. “But it makes me a little bit more determined to get this back where I want it.
“I played a little tighter than I wanted,” he added. “A few more mistakes in the short game around the greens.”
Sweden’s Jonas Blixt challenged early, aided by an eagle at the par-five sixth, but finished with a 69 for 272.
Japan’s Hiroshi Iwata, tied for the lead after his third birdie of the day at the 11th, bogeyed 16 and 18 and finished tied for fourth on 273 alongside Sweden’s Freddie Jacobson, who carded a 71.
Taylor, 39, captured his third tour title, to go with back-to-back victories in the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2004 and 2005.
He played in the Ryder Cup in 2006, but fluctuating form saw him lose his tour card, and he has bounced between the US tour and the developmental Web.com tour in recent seasons.
Long time coming
In addition to struggles on the course, he endured a frightening boat accident while fishing on a river near his home in 2014 — one in which he feared he would drown.
“It has been a long time,” Taylor said, becoming more emotional as he spoke. “I didn’t think it was going to happen. I’ve worked so hard and just kept getting knocked down and knocked down. I can’t believe it.
“I can’t believe it happened again.”
Taylor’s nine birdies on the par-72 Pebble Beach Golf Links included four in a row from the 13th. He capped that run by rattling in a 29-footer at the 16th.
“I wasn’t even thinking about making that putt,” Taylor said. “I just tried to put a good roll on it … I just flushed it.”
With the win, Taylor — who calls Augusta, Georgia, home — booked a return to the Masters for the first time since 2008.
“Oh my God,” he said. “I’m thinking about the Masters. I mean, are you kidding?
“I just wanted to play next week,” added Taylor, is now qualified to do so. “I wasn’t even thinking about winning. Things were just magical out there.”
World No.1 Jordan Spieth ended a disappointing week on a relatively strong note. After just making the cut — made after 54 holes to allow all the field to play each of three courses used in the event — Spieth carded a bogey-free six-under 66 to finished tied for 21st.