LA QUINTA, Calif. – In any other year, Nick Taylor would have had a large contingent of Canadian golf fans roaring as he birdied 15, 16 and 17 on Friday to move into the lead.
But alas, there are no spectators at The American Express in La Quinta this year, a tournament with a large fan base from north of the border since the desert is a popular snowbird location. So Taylor’s bogey-free 66 that allowed him to surge to 10 under at the midway point and into a tie for second place came with little fanfare.
Taylor, currently No. 125 on the world golf rankings, said he thinks it was time he spent over the holidays in his native country that helped him get off to a fast start this year, including a tie for 11th last week at the Sony Open.
“Yeah, I didn’t do a whole lot. I was back in Canada, not a whole lot to do. I think rest was nice,” Taylor said. “I felt like leaving in the fall, I kind of found something at Augusta (top-30 finish). I felt like we were working on the right track, so I feel like what I’m working on with my coach, everything is coming together.”
On Friday, he played a consistent round at the Pete Dye Stadium Course at PGA West with six birdies and no bogeys. He finished with a flurry that included a 23-foot birdie putt on 15, a tap-in birdie on 16 and an 18-foot birdie putt on 17.
Taylor’s short game was excellent Friday. He only needed 25 putts, and he was a perfect 5-for-5 on scrambling for pars from around the green.
“The short game has been nice, which is nice coming off a break. That’s usually what you think is going to be a little rusty,” he said. “So that’s been really sharp the last few weeks, I think that’s why my scores have been so well, just scoring nicely.”
Taylor is hoping to join Mike Weir as the only Canadian to win this event. Weir won in 2003. There are five Canadians in the field this week, and four made the cut. Roger Sloan is at 8 under, Adam Hadwin, who was a runner-up here in 2017 and 2019, is at 6 under and David Hearn is at 5 under. Michael Gligic missed the cut at 1 over.
It’s clear Taylor knows some of the secrets to desert golf. When discussing his strategies on the greens, he sounds like a local.
“You got Monday through Wednesday to kind of adjust (from the different types of grass in Hawaii,” Taylor said. “Using the grain the last couple weeks, it’s easy to help with reading breaks and with speed. Here again, with so much subtleties, you use the Salton Sea, you try to take it off the mountain. There are a lot of elements here that – there are so many subtle breaks – that it’s tough to get it right. So it was nice to make a couple putts coming in, but hopefully work on that the next couple days.”
Taylor, a 32-year-old from Winnipeg, Manitoba, has two career PGA Tour wins, including the 2020 Pebble Beach Pro-Am where he will defend his title in a few weeks. That has a nice ring to it, he said.
“Yeah, it’s going to be a little different obviously with no ams and only Spyglass and Pebble, but I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Any time you can play three rounds at Pebble, that’s a great week. So I’m looking forward to it, my game feels really good right now. So hopefully it keeps peaking.”
original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/01/22/nick-taylor-the-american-express-canadian-win-desert/