Canadian golfer Nick Taylor enjoys a victorious Super Sunday in Phoenix

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The last time a Canadian won a PGA Tour event in Arizona, it happened the same day the men’s hockey team ended a 50-year Olympic gold-medal drought, capturing the top prize in Salt Lake City.

Nick Taylor’s win at the WM Phoenix Open will likely not get overshadowed – that much, at least – as he triumphed late in the second quarter of Super Bowl LVIII on Sunday. It was a nice segue into Usher’s bangers-only halftime performance.

Twenty-two years ago, it was Ian Leggatt who won the Tucson Open as Canada defeated the United States 5-2 to win gold.

Taylor, to his credit, appeared to care very little about the big game, a cold beer in his hand on a video call and a big smile on his face. His parents were about to FaceTime him (his caddie Dave Markle, actually. “They’re probably more excited to talk to him,” Taylor said.)

In a playoff, the Canadian defeated American Charley Hoffman at TPC Scottsdale with a birdie on the second extra hole. He’s now a four-time winner on the PGA Tour. In the process he joined George Knudson as the only Canadian winners of this event (the latter won it in 1968) and tied Al Balding and Stephen Ames with four Tour titles.

This year, Taylor was solid and spectacular down the stretch despite some struggles off the tee. He hit only six of 14 fairways in the fourth round, but the Canadian was on fire with the flatstick, a product of his work with Irish-Canadian short-game guru Gareth Raflewski. Raflewski, who works mostly with the LPGA Tour’s best, helped turn Taylor’s short-game efforts around in a big way in 2023. Taylor was 52nd on the PGA Tour in strokes gained: putting last year after sitting 137th in the same stat the year prior.

Taylor was first with the putter this week in Phoenix and also first in scrambling. His driving, especially in the final round, left a lot to be desired (he was third-to-last in strokes gained: off the tee) but it mattered little as the daylight faded.

For the season, Taylor is 156th on Tour in strokes gained: around the green, but this week he zipped all the way up to 14th. Raflewski told Sportsnet the duo did “ a lot of work” to get it back, changing Taylor’s set-up and tempo.

Taylor’s short-game was on display late Sunday. He knocked a wedge to just five feet on the rowdy par-3 16th and converted a birdie to get to 20 under, just one shot back of the clubhouse lead held by Hoffman. He hit a nifty chip on the short par-4 17th, but his 13-foot birdie try just slid by. On 18, he hit his drive in the rough, but knocked another clutch wedge to just nine feet and rolled in a birdie via the side door to tie Hoffman at 21 under after 72 holes. It was the sixth playoff in the last nine years in Phoenix.

“Making all those putts when I needed to was a lot of fun and the atmosphere has been incredible all week,” Taylor said.

On the first extra hole, Taylor hit his approach to 11 feet and made that birdie. He and Hoffman returned to No. 18, and both hit less-than-stellar drives, but Taylor lucked out. Hoffman found the bunker. Taylor’s drive landed in the bunker but squirted out to the rough. He hit his approach on the green again, tight, and after Hoffman missed his birdie try, Taylor rolled in another – three birdies in his final four holes in regulation, and two straight in the playoff – from 12 feet and the title was his.

“For whatever reason it is, the later it gets, I just seem to get a little more locked in and zoned in and kind of relish those moments. And it’s been a lot of fun.”

It was a long day after a long week for everyone in the field at the Phoenix Open after weather delays plagued the early part of the week. Taylor had to play 29 holes Sunday, finishing up a 3-under 68 midday and turning right around just eight minutes later to start his final round. The PGA Tour did not re-group anyone for the fourth round in an effort to save time.

Taylor ended up shooting a 6-under 65 for the fourth round. It was the opposite kind of finish than what Taylor had at this event a year ago; he was clutch all the way around. The Canadian finished second at the Phoenix Open to Scottie Scheffler in 2023 after he bogeyed No. 16 and stumbled into the house.

Scheffler was part of the charging pack Sunday, even holding a piece of the lead at one point, but the world No. 1 faded late after missing a handful of short putts. He tied for third with Sam Burns, three back of Taylor and Hoffman.

Taylor acknowledged Scheffler’s greatness. It’s hard not to see it. But Taylor – who will ascend to No. 26 in the Official World Golf Ranking on Monday, becoming Canada’s highest-ranked male golfer in the process – is firmly in the conversation as one of the Tour’s best. He’s only shot one over-par round in 2024. His game is as complete as ever. Taylor’s second-place finish in Phoenix last year gave him a lot of confidence, he said, and he parlayed that into a drought-busting triumph at the RBC Canadian Open last summer in Toronto.

“To think I’ve won twice since then is pretty incredible,” Taylor said. “My confidence is extremely high.”

A big win during another big sporting event is just fine by Nick Taylor. He’s going to enjoy this one alongside his family – wife Andie, and kids Charlie and Harper, weren’t able to be with him at Oakdale Golf and Country Club for the Canadian Open – and then try to win an even bigger one come major-championship season.

And if that happens, hopefully all of Canadian sports fans’ eyes will be just on him.

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