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Taylor Becomes First Canadian to Nick Title at Pebble Beach

By: | Mon 10 Feb 2020 | Comments

NICK TAYLOR became the first Canadian to win the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am - it was his second PGA Tour title and he did it in style, beating American Kevin Streelman into second place by four shots after a final round of 70. It means he has secured himself a place in The Masters for the first time in his career, as well as securing his playing rights for what amounts to the best part of three years.

Taylor led from start to finish and won with a four-round total of 19 under par.  Taylor outplayed partner Phil Mickelson in the final group of the day. For a time it looked like Mickelson might be making a successful defence of a title he has won five times, but the left-hander’s game unravelled on the back nine.

Mickelson applied pressure early on and was three under par after six holes but Taylor was up to the task, and then some. He covered the same stretch in four under with birdies at the fourth and fifth and an eagle at the sixth, where he holed a bunker shot. He dropped a shot at the eighth but birdied the tough ninth hole to reach the turn in 32.

But then the wheels threatened to come off. He dropped shots at the 11th and 12th and took seven at the par-five 14th, but he birdied the 15th and 17th holes and was able to take a four-shot lead to the 18th.

Mickelson threw three shots away at the eighth and ninth to undo all the good work he had done on the front nine. It meant he reached the turn in 36. He did manage to pick up a shot at the 10th but his challenge fell apart with bogeys at the  12th, 14th and 16th. He hit a massive drive at the par-five 18th but put his second in a greenside bunker and walked off with a par. His 74 meant he finished the day in third place. Taylor parred the hole for the biggest victory of his career - five years after his first. Jason Day was fourth on 11 under.

There was also an encouraging finish for Jordan Spieth, who shot a best-of-the-day 67 to finish in a tie for ninth.

Mickelson was bitterly disappointed. Had he shared second place with Streelman he would have secured enough ranking points to qualify for the WGC Mexico Championship, but he came up agonisingly short. He now requires a good week at the Genesis Open.

“That was amazing,” said Taylor. "It was an up and down kind of a day for me and to do this while playing alongside Phil was something very special. I knew I was playing well. I holed a good par putt on the first and that really settled me down. Holing a bunker shot for an eagle at the sixth was also huge. I putted really well. The greens were tough in the wind and it was very difficult.

“It also helped that I holed a great chip for a birdie at the 15th. And then there was a great eight iron at the par-three 17th. I knew when I hit it that it was going to finish close. I didn’t actually think that I had the tournament won until I got onto the 18th green and had a putt for a birdie. When you win once it’s incredible, and I never knew if the second one would ever come. Things couldn’t be better for me right now."

Streelman and NFL star Larry Fitzgerald won the Pro-Am section for the second time with an astonishing total of 33 under par. “We have been good friends for six years and are members of the same club,” said Streelman. “I helped him when he started in the game and we took it from there. You had to have control of the golf ball today in the wind. I hit some great shots and holed a bunch of good putts."

European Tour

Min Woo Lee held his nerve in difficult conditions to win his first European Tour title at the ISPS Handa Vic Open. He entered the day with a three shot lead and never looked back after chipping in for a birdie on the first, signing for a 68 to finish at 19 under, two shots clear of a fast-finishing Ryan Fox.

The New Zealander carded a scarcely-believable closing 64 in the high winds and set the clubhouse target with an eagle to apply some pressure to Lee down the stretch. A bogey on the 17th meant the 21-year-old only took a one shot lead down the last but he refused to be flustered and birdied the par five as sister and two time champion at 13th Beach Club Minjee looked on.

Minjee Lee  won the women's event as an amateur in 2014 and lifted the trophy again as part of the paid ranks in 2018, with Min Woo now adding a chapter to a remarkable family legacy in Geelong. "My sister and I winning the same tournament, it's pretty special," he said. "I've got bragging rights now so it's even better.”

Minjee added: "I was super, super proud of him. It was really cool to just even be here with him and even watch him the last two holes. Just to see him play, I haven't really seen him play that much, so to be able to have a win here is really cool.” Minjee finished two shots out of a play-off at six under in the women's event this time around as Hee Young Park lifted the trophy.

Australian pair Marcus Fraser and Travis Smyth finished alongside Frenchman Robin Sciot-Siegrist at 14 under in the men's event, two shots clear of another Australian in Jake McLeod.

Lee announced himself on the European Tour two years ago when he made the quarter-finals of the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth as an amateur.

After making his professional and Rolex Series debut at the following season's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA, Lee achieved back to back top fives but narrowly missed out on keeping his playing privileges in his rookie campaign. He recorded a best European Tour finish when he was third at the Australian PGA Championship in December, but is now in the winner's circle in just his 19th event.

"It's awesome," he said. "Vic Open, it's the home open. Especially as it's the European Tour, it's big. I'm over the moon.

Fox was three behind playing the last but he put his second to four feet for an eagle and set the clubhouse target at 17 under, putting Lee under real pressure for the first time all day. He responded magnificently n, breaking a run of ten pars by driving right up to the front on the par four 15th and leaving himself a tap-in for birdie. He failed to get up and down on the 17th but put his second to 12 feet on the last to seal victory.

Fraser bogeyed the 17th but picked the shot back up on the last to sit in a share of third alongside Smyth, who also carded a 70, and Sciot-Siegrist who signed for a 68.

McLeod fired a 67 to sit a shot ahead of England's Sam Horsfield, Finn Sami Valimaki, amateur Jed Morgan and two more Australians in Darren Beck and Ashley Hall.

The par five second was proving gettable and the leading pair  both took advantage, with Lee getting up and down and Fraser two putting from off the green after hitting the pin with his second. Lee almost drove the green at the par four fourth and got up and down to extend his lead to four shots but Fraser trimmed it back to three as he picked up a shot on the par five next.

Fox made his birdie on the second and then drove right up to the side of the green on the fourth, holing a long putt for eagle in a big early move. A tee shot to eight feet at the par three seventh handed him another birdie and he holed a ten foot right to lefter on the tenth to get to 14 under. A 12 footer on the 16th had Fox in a share of second and when Fraser failed to get up and down on the 14th, he was there alone.

"I thought coming in I had a really good chance because I was hitting it really good but I think I impressed myself with the game this whole week,” said Lee. "I felt really comfortable just because if I did exactly the same as yesterday, I felt pretty hard to stop. I started off really hot off the gate and it was pretty comfortable those last few holes. It got a bit nervy but I'm pretty proud of the way I finished."

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