Vaughn Taylor holds up his ball after making a birdie putt on the second green.
BY DOUG FERGUSON
The Associated Press
PEBBLE BEACH, California – Vaughn Taylor is headed home to the Masters with his first PGA Tour victory in more than a decade, and he can’t believe it.
Neither can Phil Mickelson.
Taylor, who hasn’t had a full PGA Tour card for the last three years, ran off four straight birdies on the back nine to close with a 7-under 65 and won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Sunday when Mickelson missed a 5-foot putt on the final hole.
“It’s been a long time. I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Taylor said. “I worked so hard. I kept getting knocked down, knocked down. I’m just at a loss for words.”
A week of spectacular weather on the Monterey Peninsula ended with a stunning conclusion for both players.
Taylor is No. 447 in the world and won his first PGA Tour event against the top players. His previous two victories were the Reno-Tahoe Open (2004 and 2005), which is held opposite a World Golf Championship. He just returned from South America and a pair of Web.com Tour events.
And then there was Mickelson, going for his 43rd career PGA Tour victory and his record-tying fifth at Pebble Beach, staked to a two-shot lead with no one near his pedigree within five shots of the lead.
Mickelson, however, struggled from the start and could not keep making enough par putts to hold off Taylor.
Lefty still managed a rally of his own. Trailing by two shots with two holes to play, Lefty made a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th and was in perfect position for a birdie on the closing hole at Pebble Beach. His hybrid landed in front of the green, 60 feet short of the pin. His pitch came up 5 feet short, and the birdie putt to force a playoff hit the left edge of the cup and spun out. Mickelson bent over with his hand on his knee.
“It never crossed my mind that one on 18 wouldn’t go in,” he said.
Mickelson closed with a 72, extending the longest victory drought of his professional career dating to the 2013 British Open.
Taylor is a longtime resident of Augusta, Georgia, and the perks of this surprise victory starts with a spot in the Masters for the first time since 2008. The 39-year-old Taylor also gets a two-year exemption, meaningful for a guy who lost his card after 2012.
Jonas Blixt, the first player to catch Mickelson, made bogey on the par-5 14th to fall back and closed with four pars for a 69 to finish third. Hiroshi Iwata of Japan, who played with Mickelson in the final group, was one shot behind until he missed the 16th green to the right and made bogey He closed with a 72 to tie for fourth with Freddie Jacobson (71). Taylor finished at 17-under 270.
Jordan Spieth, the world’s No. 1 player, closed with a 66 and tied for 21st, ending his streak of seven straight top 10s dating to September.