No Canadian has had a better start to the 2017-18 PGA Tour season than Nick Taylor.
The Abbotsford, B.C., golfer has played three events so far and finished inside the top 25 in all three, including a tie for ninth at the Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.
That record should be a surprise to no one since Taylor has been consistently getting better since joining the big circuit back in 2015. That year, of course, he jumped from the gates to win the Sanderson Farms Championship in just his fourth start as a member. Expectations landed squarely on his shoulders, most of them somewhat unrealistic for a PGA Tour rookie.
The last two years have been a more usual path for a player of Taylor’s experience, steadily improving, rising up the FedEx Cup points list and starting to get himself into contention from time to time.
“I’ve improved every year although sometimes the results haven’t always shown,” said the 29-year-old. “I felt like last year was a huge step getting a handful of top 10s and getting in contention more often and feeling a little more comfortable.
“And then this year to start off with having Napa and Korea [at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges] being in contention on Sunday. Maybe [I wasn’t] right in the thick of it, but at least having an outside chance where if I had a great final round I’d have a chance to win was a good feeling. That’s where I want to be, to keep pushing it and be in those final groups and having a better chance at winning.”
Last year, Taylor finished 93rd on the FedEx Cup ranking and played two legs of the playoffs before bowing out. He had four top-10 finishes and made the cut in 20 of his 29 starts.
Tee to green, his game showed a marked improved since he joined the PGA Tour, but on the greens was where he was lacking. He was 147th in Strokes Gained: Putting last year and was well down the ranking in most putting categories. For instance he had 63 three putts, putting him 162nd in three-putt avoidance.
“It’s something I worked on a lot in the off-season,” Taylor said of his play on the greens. “That was kind of the main focus coming off last year. I felt like ball-striking and around the greens improved last year and putting was the area that kind of held me back.”
The work under the watchful eye of coach Ralph Bauer has paid dividends. His performance in the first three starts of the year was definitely buttressed by his putting; he finished 10th, T14 and 27th in putts per green in regulation, a great sign that things are heading in the right direction.
Taylor will tee it up this week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, hoping to keep the momentum going. He knows these early season events are a great opportunity to build a foundation for the rest of the year.
“They are really important,” he admitted of the fall swing. “If you get off to a great start it can really ease up your schedule in the spring or later on in the year. That’s always kind of been the goal the last few years, to play more early on to give myself more opportunity to rest later on in the year and be ready for the playoffs.”
So far, Taylor seems to be knocking off goals in the early going. He’s already amassed almost a third of the FedEx Cup points he did all of last year and he’s got his putter working for him. If he continues to play as he has so far, it should be a solid season.