A Vaugn-ted run to crown
RENO – Vaughn Taylor said he’ll never forget his last two putts of Sunday’s wind-ravaged Reno-Tahoe Open, and with good reason.
The soft-spoken Taylor drained a putt of nearly 14 feet on his 72nd hole to make the third playoff in RTO history, and approximately 25 minutes later, he drained an 11-footer on the same hole to win his first PGA Tour title over hometown hero Scott McCarron, Steve Allan and Hunter Mahan.
The quartet finished regulation play at 10-under 278. Of the four, McCarran (71) was the only one to break par in the final round. Taylor shot a 3-over 75, Allan a 2-over 74 and Mahan a 2-over 74.
Taylor and McCarron were in the middle off the tee on the playoff hole. Taylor hit a fine approach shot and sank the ensuing putt. Mahan, who drove the ball in the right rough, barely missed his birdie attempt as did McCarron.
The victory was huge in so many ways for Taylor, who earned his card after finishing 11th on the Nationwide Tour list last season. He earned $540,000 for his win Sunday and, even more important, a two-year exemption.
“I am so excited,” Taylor said in the media tent at Montreux Golf & Country Club. “It’s been my dream ever since I started playing golf. It’s a big relief. I wanted to keep my card, and I knew I was getting close. That was my goal, winning wasn’t. That was definitely a bonus. I’ve missed quite often putts to go into playoffs or lose.
“I wouldn’t say it was your average Sunday. I didn’t play my best today, but I hung in there. I never gave up. I gave it a 100 percent. I’ve battled that in the past where I’d get down on myself and hang my head.”
And that took some doing, considering he double-bogeyed 14 and bogeyed 15.
On No. 14, he hit a 9-iron over the green, chipped up and two-putted for a six. On the next hole, he hit driver off the tee and hit a 6-iron into the hazard. After the penalty stroke, he chipped to 18 feet and sank the putt.
He was certainly steamed, slamming his club briefly.
He parred the next two holes, setting the stage for the heroics on No. 18.
The pressure of winning your first PGA title is no easy task, according to Taylor.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “You work hard to win. It is really tough. People make it sound so easy, but it’s not.”
Taylor said he wanted to help his parents with some of his new-found wealth.
“My mom got laid off last year,” said Taylor, who hinted a new car might be in the works, too. “She does everything for me.”
For McCarron, who had the crowd behind him, it was another disappointment in his home state. In October, he lost a playoff to Stuart Appleby at the Las Vegas Invitational.
“It’s not a win,” said McCarron, who had his best finish at the RTO. “I’m very disappointed. I felt I had a pretty good shot at it. I hit every shot I wanted to and every club I wanted to. I have no regrets.
“The crowd was behind me. They wanted me to win. The sponsors wanted me to win.”
McCarron didn’t believe that he had an advantage considering his vast experience over the three younger players.
“They hadn’t been here before, but they’ve won other tournaments,” McCarron said. “They’re good players.
“I missed a short putt on 16 and I hit a a 7-iron into a par-5 and parred it. That’s where I lost the tournament.”
McCarron, who grinded all day, got it to 11-under with a birdie on No. 13. After pars on No. 14 and No. 15, he bogeyed No. 16 to drop back to 10-under. He parred the last two holes, sinking an 8-footer on No. 18 to save par.
“The up and down at 18 was the best I ever made,” he said.
McCarron said he was surprised that there was even a playoff. Nobody counted on Steve Allan double-bogeying the 18th hole.
Allan, who had a two-shot lead over McCarron and Mahan entering the final hole, double-bogeyed the par-4 18th, missing a short bogey putt.
Contact Darrell Moody at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1281.