Clutch Player: Canadian Nick Taylor thriving under playoff pressure on PGA Tour

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Nick Taylor

Nick Taylor is developing a reputation as one of the PGA Tour’s most clutch players, and he’s loving it.

Taylor drained an 11-foot putt for birdie on the second playoff hole of the WM Phoenix Open on Sunday to beat American Charley Hoffman for his second victory in nine months. 

The fourth win of Taylor’s PGA Tour career mirrored his historic victory at the RBC Canadian Open last June, when he sank a 72-foot eagle putt in the fourth round of a playoff against England’s Tommy Fleetwood.

“You always relish being in those positions, but being able to pull off shots, now I can draw on that a lot,” Taylor, from Abbotsford, B.C., said of his growing confidence. “I want to be in those positions more and more. 

“My game has followed that, so hopefully I’m in those positions more and when I get in that kind of spotlight I’m comfortable. The hard part now is getting there as much as I can.”

He’ll have another chance at being in the spotlight at this week’s Genesis Invitational at The Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. The 35-year-old Taylor said that he’s worked to solidify his game over the past two years.

“Really, since the fall of ’22 we had a road map of where we wanted to get to, and since then it hasn’t really been changes, it’s been sticking to the same things that we know will get me to where I want to be,” said Taylor. “It’s been the deliberate practice of doing the same boring stuff, which sounds easy at times but sometimes you can wander away. 

“That’s why my team will reel me in if I try to do something different because they know what we’ve been doing has been working, so just sticking to the basic stuff.”

One thing that hasn’t changed for Taylor is his ability to clear his mind and perform under pressure. 

Taylor won the Canadian Junior in 2006 and the Canadian Amateur Championship in 2007 as an amateur and then also won on the PGA Tour at the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2014 and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2020. 

He said that more than a decade of playing in high-leverage situations has forged him into a clutch performer.

“You work on mindset, you work on breathing at times, but I think dating back to even junior golf when I’ve been in those positions, I want to be in that position,” he said. 

“I feel more locked in, whatever it is. I’ve been able to pull off shots in those scenarios and I think maybe I’ve been doing it long enough where I have confidence that I can pull it off and I don’t have the sidetracking thoughts or negative thoughts in there.”

Taylor will be joined this week by Adam Hadwin, also from Abbotsford, Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas, Ont., and Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C.

The win rocketed Taylor up the FedEx Cup standings to sixth overall, putting him into an excellent position to represent the International Team at this year’s Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal Golf Club.

“That’s on the top of the list along with the Olympics,” said Taylor, who wants to play for International captain Mike Weir of Brights Grove, Ont., at the Presidents Cup. “There are things on my goal list, but I also just try to focus on my golf and if I play well I feel like it’s going to take care of itself. 

“This is obviously a good start, but it’s a long ways away. If I keep playing good golf, I think it will take care of itself.”

CHAMPIONS TOUR — Calgary’s Stephen Ames and Weir will tee off on Friday in the Chubb Classic at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Fla. Ames is coming off of an incredible 2023 season where he won four events on the seniors’ circuit.

TEAM CANADA — Golf Canada announced the names of 19 professional players that will be part of its 2024 men’s and women’s squads on Monday. Maddie Szeryk of London, Ont., Maude-Aimee Leblanc of Sherbrooke, Que., Brigitte Thibault of Rosemere, Que., and Selena Costabile of Thornhill, Ont., were named to the women’s team. A.J. Ewart of Coquitlam, B.C., Calgary’s Brendan MacDougall, Chris Crisologo of Richmond, B.C., Étienne Papineau of St-Jean-Sur-Richelieu, Que., Hamilton’s Johnny Travale, Jared du Toit of Kimberley, B.C., Victoria’s Jeevan Sihota, Joey Savoie of La Prairie, Que., Matthew Anderson of Missssauga, Ont., Max Sekulic of Rycroft, Alta., Myles Creighton of Digby, N.S., Noah Steele of Kingston, Ont., Vancouver’s Stuart Macdonald, Sudarshan Yellamaraju of Mississauga, and Thomas Giroux of Georgetown, Ont., were named to the men’s group.