With a ‘chase mentality,’ Nick Taylor gets a sniff of the lead and knows how to pour in putts

Feb, 2024

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Former University of Washington men’s golf coach Matt Thurmond’s scouting report of Nick Taylor from the team’s 2009 media guide has aged well 15 years later.

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“I’ve never coached anyone that can raise his game so much in difficult conditions and high-pressure situations,” Thurmond, now the coach at Arizona State, wrote all those years ago. “Nick can hit the best shot at the biggest moment.”

On Sunday, Taylor birdied five of his final six holes at TPC Scottsdale to defeat Charley Hoffman on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff to win the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

“He’s tough when he gets the chance, it’s just getting him there,” said Mark McCann, Taylor’s swing coach since 2018. “Every time he gets a sniff, he’s going to win, it’s getting him to that sniff.”

Taylor notched his fourth career Tour title in the Valley of the Sun, the Canadian native’s adopted hometown. His first win came at the 2014 Sanderson Farms Championship but then he had to wait more than five years to get back to the winner’s circle. When he did so, at the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Taylor stared down Phil Mickelson in the final round. There was also the time in 2018 when Taylor shot a final-round 63 at the Wyndham Championship to keep his Tour card.

How does he do it when his back is against the wall or the tournament is on the line?

“Bad thoughts seem to go out of my brain,” he said.

Taylor’s third win proved that Pebble was no fluke, winning his national open to snap a 59-year drought for Canadians at the 2023 RBC Canadian Open. With the pressure of an entire country depending on him to end the winless spell, Taylor calmly stepped up and holed an unforgettable 72-foot eagle putt to clinch the title in a four-hole playoff over Tommy Fleetwood.

And then on Sunday, he trailed Hoffman by three strokes with four holes to go but never panicked, electing to lay up at the par-5 15th and rely on his stellar wedge game. Taylor credited work he’s done with his mental coach, Chris Bergstrom, in helping him find his sweet spot for being so mentally tough.

“The chase mentality seems to be my best mindset where I have to do things,” he said. “Sometimes that means I need to birdie two holes on the back nine to make the cut. We have tricks to try to get into that mindset. I had to get into that mindset trying to chase down Hoffman … Why the ball decides to go in the hole at the right time in the last two years, who knows?”

What he does know is that two years ago he fell into the trap of projecting ahead to what it would be like to qualify for the International Team for the Presidents Cup and he applied too much pressure to achieving his goal of his first international competition. This year, he’s poised to make the team and play for Canada’s Mike Weir in Montreal, and with his world ranking climbing to a career-best of 28th, he’s in line to represent Canada at The Olympics.

“Those are huge goals of mine but also golf will kind of take care of that. If I’m looking week after week of where I am, what I need to do, it’s only going to be hurtful,” he said.

The International Team can certainly use a player who can raise his game in the most pressure-packed situations like Taylor has been doing ever since Coach Thurmond first laid eyes on him.


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