AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - A year ago, Augusta resident Vaughn Taylor attended the Masters as a fan with his wife and young son, not sure if he would ever return to the iconic venue as a player because of his poor form.
This week, however, the elated American journeyman is back to compete in his fourth Masters after ending a PGA Tour title drought of more than a decade with a one-shot victory over Phil Mickelson at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February.
”It’s been a great feeling,“ Taylor, 40, told reporters at a sun-splashed Augusta National on Monday. ”I came out yesterday and just found myself in a really, really good mood, I was upbeat. Just feels great to be on the grounds.
“Still a little jittery, but it’s good. I‘m having fun and, you know, I just really, really appreciate being back.”
Taylor produced an explosive finish with five birdies after the turn to clinch victory at Pebble Beach two months ago, earning a coveted spot at the Masters with his first PGA Tour win since the 2005 Reno-Tahoe Open.
He had not played a full season on the PGA tour since 2012 while bouncing between that and the satellite Web.com tour over the past three seasons, and his last Masters appearance was in 2008 when he missed the cut.
”It was one of those when-you-least-expect-it moments,“ Taylor said of his Pebble Beach breakthrough. ”It seemed to take a long time to turn around.
”And it turned around quickly in one week (at Pebble Beach). Just tells me, never give up. Always believe, always believe in yourself, no matter what your game feels like or where you’re at playing and what’s going on.
“I played well last year, but prior to that, it was a struggle. And I really wondered, I kept telling myself, if I want to get back, I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to improve on a list of things, and I was working on them.”
Twelve months ago, Taylor was back at Augusta National with his family to watch the Masters, uncertain about his golfing future.
“My son was a little over a year old and we thought it would be cool to bring him out,” said three-times PGA Tour winner Taylor, whose best Masters finish was a tie for 10th in 2007.
”We probably stayed for a couple hours total and just had a good time.
“I had always been a little hesitant to come back. I wanted to wait until I got back in the tournament. And just the way I’ve been playing and the way things were going, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it back. This has been pretty amazing.”
Editing by Larry Fine