June 20th, 2024

Canada’s Nick Taylor gets a Masters Mulligan after COVID-19 tainted first experience

By John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press on April 10, 2024.

Nick Taylor, of Canada, hits from the bunker on the 10th hole during a practice round in preparation for the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Wednesday, April 10, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Matt Slocum

Nick Taylor is happy to be getting a Mulligan on his first Masters appearance.

The Abbotsford, B.C., native made his one and only appearance at Augusta National Golf Club in 2020. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Masters was held in November that year, there were no fans and players could only have one person in the bubble with them at the course.

Taylor will tee it up at the first major of the men’s golf season on Thursday but, this time, his whole family will be there and he’ll be able to soak in the “true” Augusta experience.

“A lot of my early experiences of watching golf, like Mike Weir winning the Masters in 2003, I watched that with my dad and my brother in the basement,” said Taylor from his home in Arizona. “The Masters always felt like the start of the golf year back home in Canada.

“So for everyone to be at the Masters will be very, very, very special.”

Taylor was particularly excited to have his children participate in the Par 3 contest, a Masters tradition where the golfers play the short course with their families and their get kids decked out in Augusta’s distinctive all-white caddie coveralls. His four-year-old son Charlie and 11-month-old daughter Harper had already been fitted for theirs.

“I think just the whole experience of the week, to be there and have it be a quote-unquote normal Masters will be something I’ve obviously looked forward to ever since I began playing golf,” said Taylor. “After 2020 was one of those where I hoped it wasn’t my only experience but, obviously, you never know, so being able to say that I’ve had two very distinctly different Masters experiences will be pretty cool.”

Another highlight of the Masters experience is getting to play alongside Weir, from Brights Grove, Ont., the only Canadian to win the Masters or any men’s major.

They were grouped together in 2020 and played a practice round together with Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., and Adam Hadwin, also from Abbotsford. Canada’s PGA Tour players often practice together before events and, as usual, it became an East vs. West event on Tuesday.

Weir reported that the Ontarian pairing of he and Conners beat out the Abbotsford boys.

“We had a great time. Always fun for me to catch up with the guys. I only get to see them a couple times a year,” said Weir, who is the International Team’s captain for this year’s Presidents Cup. “I’ll see them a little bit more now because I’m travelling out to a few more events, but yeah, always fun.”

Another thing that has changed since Taylor’s last Masters appearance is Taylor’s FedEx Cup ranking. He qualified in 2020 after winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February of that year, but has moved way up the standings thanks to winning the RBC Canadian Open in June and the WM Phoenix Open in February.

He’s now the top-ranked Canadian on the PGA Tour, sitting 13th in the FedEx Cup standings.

“I would say early in 2020, my game was rounding into really nice form, after winning Pebble and getting some confidence going,” said Taylor. “It’s easy to see years later, but you know, the COVID stretch where I was quarantined a bit back in Canada, bouncing back and forth, my game kind of deteriorated over that time and took some time to claw my way back.

“I do feel like now I’m better than ever. I feel like I’m a different player than I was three and a half years ago when I was there.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 10, 2024.

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