02/15/2016

Bill Murray’s annual foray into golf finally produced a true Cinderella story.

With celebrities on hand—the Great One, Justin Timberlake, AL MVP Josh Donaldson and yes Murray himself—a forgotten man took center stage. Vaughan Taylor, 11 years after his last PGA Tour win, took the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at -17. Taylor shot a Sunday 65 to surge to the lead, ahead of five-time major champion Phil Mickelson among others.

Sobel’s full story on Vaughn Taylor

It was the story that everyone latched to on a weekend that couldn’t figure out what it wanted to do. World No. 1 Jordan Spieth returned to the states to much fanfare with a little help from Jake Owen. The country music star shared a story pre-tournament about Spieth calling his shot at Owen’s charity golf event—a hole-out from the fairway that included the words “pay up.”

[bctt tweet=”Bill Murray’s annual foray into golf finally produced a true Cinderella story.”]

That anecdote proved to be the highpoint of Spieth’s weekend. He failed to muster much of a challenge until the final round, when he fired a 66.

Then it was South Korean Kang Sung’s turn to steal the spotlight. A 60 will do that. Kang carded an astounding nine birdies and one eagle to come within one shot of golf’s magic scoring number at the Monterey Peninsula CC Friday. Of course, he surrounded that round with three in the 70’s. He closed Sunday 17 shots worse than Friday. A 77 left Kang in T17.

Mickelson made his charge to hold a two-shot lead after Saturday.

Sunday, though, brought an up-and-down performance. Mickelson made two bogeys and two birdies for an even-par 72. One more birdie, such as a five-footer on 18 that Lefty missed, would have sent Mickelson into a playoff with Taylor.

No, it was always going to be Taylor’s day.

He led the tournament in strokes gained tee to green. And besides, the 39-year-old delivered the best round of the day. Following a 34 on the front-nine that was marred by two bogeys, Taylor got hot.

He birdied four consecutive holes from the 13th to the 16th. Another birdie on 10 gave him just enough to hold off the field during a difficult scoring day. Taylor finished with a 65, matched only by Patrick Reed, and waited nervously for Mickelson to come in.

At that point, golf twitter started to catch on to his story. Avid fans remember his name from his back-to-back Reno-Tahoe Opens in 2004 and 2005. That was when he was a 25-year-old up-and-comer out of Augusta State.

Now he’s a journeyman trying to hold on. Or he was. After plying his trade on the Web.com Tour, Taylor has earned status with the big boys again. More than that, he’ll return to the Masters in April for the first time since 2008.

Fairly inactive on Twitter since July 2015, Vaughn had only posted two tweets in the past 7 months. Here was one.

Taylor deserved some luck. In 2009, he lost in six playoff holes to Matt Kuchar at the Turning Stone Resort Championship. A year later, the erstwhile Anthony Kim denied Taylor a victory at the Shell Houston Open, again in a playoff.

Temperatures across the United States plummeted this weekend, another reminder that we’re much further from Augusta National than less than two months. We’ll get our big showdown between Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler and yes Mickelson then. Until then, we have good stories to root for.

Taylor’s would certainly qualify.