(Reuters) - Rookie Nick Taylor, helped by three consecutive birdies on the back nine, displayed ice-cool composure to win his maiden PGA Tour title by two shots at the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Mississippi on Sunday.
On a glorious afternoon of unbroken sunshine at the Country Club of Jackson where the greens ran firm and fast, the 26-year-old Canadian surged past overnight leader John Rollins with a sizzling six-under-par 66.
Taylor broke clear of a tightly bunched leaderboard with his three-birdie blitz from the 13th, calmly sank a par-saving putt from nine feet at the 16th and could afford a three-putt bogey at the last to post a 16-under total of 272.
Rollins, seeking his first PGA Tour victory in five years, closed with a 73 to finish in a three-way tie for fourth at 13 under, a stroke behind fellow Americans Boo Weekley (66) and Jason Bohn (69).
“It’s been a whirlwind of a summer,” a smiling Taylor told Golf Channel after becoming the first Canadian-born player to win on the PGA Tour since left-hander Mike Weir at the 2007 Fry’s Electronics Open.
“Six months ago, I was struggling but I kind of kept at it, kind of got hot and the putter started cooperating. Today I putted unbelievable ... it’s pretty surreal and a shock but I am certainly happy with it.”
Taylor, the world’s top-ranked amateur for 21 successive weeks in 2009 before turning professional the following year, secured his PGA Tour card after closing with a 63 at the 2014 Web.com Tour’s season’s finale in September.
He began the final round in Jackson four strokes off the pace but got hot early and caught Rollins at the top with five birdies and a bogey on his outward nine.
Though Rollins briefly regained the outright lead with a birdie at the par-five 11th, Taylor tightened his grip with a timely three-birdie run, sinking an 11-footer at the 15th to forge two ahead.
Rollins ran up a three-putt bogey at the 14th to hand Taylor a three-shot cushion.
“I kind of had a feeling where I was coming off 17,” said Taylor, who was born in Winnipeg. “Obviously the last few holes I had some nerves but I was able to make some putts.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry