Vaughn Taylor leaves a decade of choppy waters behind to finally catch wave of success again

 
Sam Torrance
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AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am - Final Round
Taylor pipped five-time Major winner Mickelson to win his first title since 2005 (Source: Getty)

A seismic week in the golfing world it may not have been, but it did throw up a lovely story of a player putting more than a decade of struggle on off the course behind him with a long overdue win.

That man was Vaughn Taylor, a former world top 40 player around the time of his last PGA Tour title in 2005 – form that earned him a place on the American Ryder Cup team a year later at the K Club.

Injuries and loss of form have hindered him since then, while in 2014 he was left shaken by a boating accident in which a lifejacket-less Taylor had to battle to swim to safety in a fast-flowing river.

After an 11-year absence Taylor returned to the winners’ circle on Sunday at the AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, beating his former Ryder Cup team-mate Mickelson to the prize.

The 39-year-old has not had a full PGA Tour card for some time, started the week ranked 447 in the world, and only learned he was taking part in the tournament as first reserve on Monday.

He started the final round six shots behind Mickelson but carded fantastic seven-under-par final round of 65 to finish on 17 under – enough to pip the five-time Major winner by one stroke.

Now Taylor is heading to Augusta in his native Georgia in a few weeks to play the Masters for the first time since 2008. More than anything else, he’ll be overjoyed at ending that decade-long drought.

Mickelson, meanwhile, is left to ponder another missed opportunity to claim a first title since the 2013 Open Championship.

The 45-year-old is still a wonderful player but not the player he once was and seems to be on a slippery slope. It raises the question of whether he’ll ever be a prolific winner again.

Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel offered another reminder of his class as he won the Tshwane Open on home soil to become the fifth South African winner on the European Tour already this year.

That figure can be partly explained by the number of events held there at the start of the year, but there’s certainly a great current crop of players from that region, such as Schwartzel and Branden Grace.

So powerful and talented is Schwartzel that it’s almost disappointing that he hasn’t won four or five Majors by now. At 31, thought, he is still in his prime and has every chance of doing so.

Second in Pretoria was Danish rookie Jeff Winther, 27, who did fantastically well to bank £90,000 in only his fifth event on the European Tour and having missed the cut in the other four.

Finally, this week sees the second instalment in 2016 of Rory McIlroy versus Jordan Spieth, although I doubt that either player will be looking at it in that way.

Former No1 McIlroy finished higher than current top-ranked player Spieth on their last outing in Abu Dhabi in three weeks ago. But just as I think Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer used to ignore the competition when they played, I expect Rory and Jordan to be focusing on their own game at the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust Open and, if anything, to be grateful to have an opponent to push them.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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