SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Nick Taylor knows TPC Scottsdale like the back of his hand and it showed on Friday.
The Canadian native, who lives not far from the course and practices here regularly, tied the course record with an 11-under 60 to take a five-stroke lead after the first round of the WM Phoenix Open.
“I’ve probably never putted that well,” said Taylor, who made 184 feet, 1 inch of putts in the first round, gaining 7.145 strokes on the greens. “Yeah, saw the lines great, and it was a continuation of last night.”
It marked the second straight round on the PGA Tour over a span of two tournaments and six days that a player shot 60 with preferred lies being in effect due to weather conditions. (Wyndham Clark shot 12-under 60 at Pebble Beach on Saturday during the third round.)
Taylor, who started on the front nine Thursday, played just six holes as a result of a 3-hour, 30 minute delay due to rain, which was followed by the suspension of play due to darkness. Despite unseasonably chilly conditions that sent the temperature dipping into the 40s, he was off to a hot start, making three birdies in his first six holes. On Friday morning, there was a 90-minute frost delay but when Taylor started at the par-3 16th, the cold didn’t bother the Canadian.
“I’ve played enough in it where I kind of know what to expect,” said Taylor, who was runner-up to Scottie Scheffler at the WM Phoenix Open.
Taylor planted his tee shot 9 feet from the hole and sank the putt. Then he started a string of four birdies in a row beginning at 18, including draining a 21-foot birdie putt at No. 2 and wedging to a foot at the par-5 third. He cooled off with four pars in a row, but the last of them, at No. 7, felt like a birdie. After catching a little too much ball with his bunker shot, his putter bailed him out and rescued par with a 21-foot putt.
Asked if he had 59 in his mind, he said, “After a missed opportunity probably on 6 and sneaking away with par on 7, it was kind of done there. I wanted to keep the round going and finish it off.”
Taylor, who became a national hero last summer when he became the first Canadian to win the RBC Canadian Open in 69 years, tacked on birdies at the final two holes, canning putts of 15 feet and 9 feet to tie the course record. Taylor became the fourth different golfer to shoot 60 during the WM Phoenix Open, joining Grant Waite, the first to do so in the final round in 1996, Mark Calcavecchia, second round in 2001, and Phil Mickelson, who did it twice – second round in 2005 and first round in 2013.
“I essentially made every putt I looked at,” Taylor said. “It was a day that you don’t want it to end. Luckily I’m going to play another round here, so hopefully I can keep that going. But everything has worked really well.”
Taylor had a quick, 30-minute turnaround for his second-round tee time and proceeded to hit his opening drive into the native area and had to take a penalty stroke. He made his first bogey of the tournament but it still does little to tarnish the lowest round of his Tour career.