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, ended up just one shot behind leader Emiliano Grillo of Argentina after the first round of the Canadian Open 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, finishing the day level with compatriot Brian Harman.
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, opened with 68s.
Australian Jason Day, ranked ninth, also carded a 68 that included an eagle from 95 yards at the par-four 10th, while South African Tim Clark, who clinched last year’s title at Royal Montreal by one shot, returned 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.”
Leader Grillo was naturally delighted with his position, even more so after a hiccup when he tried to enter Canada from the American border earlier in the week.
“I wasn’t able to get a permit in time, so I kind of had to go to the Canadian border and ask for permission to play in this tournament,” Grillo said.
”I got lucky enough to spend two hours in there, and they told me, ‘Hey, you can go. Just pay the permit and go ahead.’
“I‘m here now and a good, solid round today.”
Editing by Gene Cherry and Andrew Both