By JON CHOWN, Special to the Pajaronian
PEBBLE BEACH—Swirling winds opened the door for Phil Mickelson to come from behind and claim his sixth title at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but leader Nick Taylor shut it with a birdie chip on the 15th hole on his way to a 19-under-par and his first victory at Pebble.
Taylor, from Canada, started the final day one stroke in front of Mickelson, but had increased his lead to five by the ninth hole. Then, a series of shots in the wind took both of their balls into normally uncharted territories on the back nine. Taylor shot a bogey on 11 and another on 12 and then a double bogey on 14. His tee shots seemed to be either going out of bounds, over the green or into a bunker.
But Mickelson was unable to fare any better during the gusty day. Both of their tee shots on 12 went over the green and both of their drives on 14 were into bunkers. Phil’s bogey on 14 put him just two shots back. But while he struggled to make par on 15, Taylor chipped it in for birdie from the edge of the green and the match was all but over. Mickelson shot a bogey on 16 and Taylor made a birdie on 17 to remove any doubt going into the final hole. He finished at 19-under, 268, earning a two-year exemption on the PGA TOUR.
“It was an up and down day,” said Taylor, who claimed just his second PGA win. “But I believed I could do it because I’ve done it before. But to do it in that fashion, playing with Phil, gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”
Taylor will pocket $1.4 million for the victory, as well as a trip to the Masters and the PGA Championship.
“Nick just played better than I did,” Mickelson said. “He just really played some great golf.”
Mickelson finished 14-under and in third place. Kevin Streelman, who was in the group ahead of Taylor and Mickelson, finished 16-under and in second place. He was also the team winner, along with his amateur, Larry Fitzgerald, receiver for the NFL Arizona Cardinals. It was the second time in three years Fitzgerald has been the top amateur.
It was a wonderful week for golf at the AT&T Pebble Pro-Am, with sunny skies every day. The event brings a host of celebrities and golf fans to the Monterey Peninsula and raises millions of dollars for local charities. Bill Murray was the fan favorite, again, but other popular celebs included NFL players Peyton and Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Steve Young, along with actors and comedians such as Ray Romano, Larry the Cable Guy and many others.