July 23, 2015 / 9:15 PM / 2 years ago

Augusta resident Taylor enjoys masterful start in Canada

3 Min Read

Zach Johnson of the U.S. celebrates as he kisses the Claret Jug after winning the British Open golf championship on the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, July 20, 2015.Paul Childs

OAKVILLE, Ontario (Reuters) - Zach Johnson's putting coach has another student hoping to find his way into the winner's circle at a national golf championship.

American Vaughn Taylor, who like British Open champion Johnson works with Pat O'Brien, was just a shot behind early leader Emiliano Grillo of Argentina in the Canadian Open first round on Thursday.

Grillo checked in with a bogey-free, eight-under 64 while Taylor, an Augusta, Georgia resident, also fired eight birdies to go along with a bogey for an opening 65 at the Glen Abbey layout.

American Steve Wheatcroft, South African Tyrone Van Aswegen and Australian amateur Ryan Ruffels were next best at six-under.

They were followed by Americans Alex Prugh, Eric Axley, William McGirt and Jim Herman at five-under as the field took advantage of the firm conditions. Axley made three eagles in his round.

Among the big names competing this week, American world number three Bubba Watson and compatriot Jim Furyk, a twice former Canadian Open champion who is ranked seventh, both opened with 68s.

South African Tim Clark, who clinched last year's title at Royal Montreal by one shot, carded an even-par 72.

The 39-year-old Taylor is 10 years removed since he successfully defended his PGA Tour title at the Reno-Tahoe Open.

He had putting coach O'Brien meet him at the Barbasol Championship in Alabama last week to help fine-tune his putting stroke and that lesson resulted in a tie for 10th, only Taylor's second top-10 of the season.

"(O'Brien is) an awesome influence in my life and my game, and I appreciate him," said the 2006 United States Ryder Cup member, who began working with O'Brien in 2000.

Taylor made headlines last summer when his fishing boat capsized due to rough conditions on Thurmond Lake near his Augusta home. He was not wearing a life jacket and had to swim to shore, where park rangers rescued him. "I made a lot of mistakes that day, just being careless," he said. "Every time I go out there, I try not make the same mistakes and realize how precious life is."

Editing by Gene Cherry

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