Nick Taylor’s ball travelled more than a foot for every year Canadian golf fans had waited for one of their own to win the RBC Canadian Open.
North of the border they refer to it simply as “The Putt.” Amid a steady rain, the 72-foot eagle bomb at Toronto’s Oakdale Golf and Country Club by Abbotsford’s own Nick Taylor on the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff ended a 69-year drought of a Canadian not winning its national open.
CBS’s Jim Nantz delivered the exclamation on the TV call: “Glorious and free,” he said.
Quite simply, it was Golfweek’s Shot of the Year for 2023.
“Do it, Do it, DO IT!,” shouted Adam Hadwin, kneeling greenside and holding a bottle of champagne, as the ball neared the hole.
It DID IT!
Canadian Mark Zecchino calling the action on Sirius/XM’s PGA Tour Network lost his mind as he went on repeat: “The drought is over, the drought is over…History! History!”
Taylor tossed his putter into the air and leaped into the arms of caddie Dave Markle, a former teammate on Canada’s amateur team, after the longest made putt of his PGA Tour career. Out of the corner of his eye, Taylor recalled seeing Hadwin, who grew up at the same course, Ledgeview Golf Club, get tackled by a security card as he attempted spraying Taylor with champagne in what became an even more viral moment than the winning putt.
Fellow Canadian players Mike Weir, who left the property and returned to witness history, and Corey Conners were among those who ran onto the green to congratulate Taylor. The partisan crowd was so loud – they had serenaded Taylor with a rendition of its “O Canada” national anthem during the day – that CBS’s Amanda Renner had to delay the post-round interview because she couldn’t hear.
“This is for all the guys that are here. This is for my family at home,” Taylor said with tears in his eyes. “This is the most incredible feeling.”
The last player from Canada to win the Canadian Open had been Pat Fletcher in 1954 at Point Grey in Vancouver. Technically, Fletcher was born in England; Carl Keffer had been the only Canadian-born champion, winning in 1909 and 1914. Weir had come close, losing a playoff to Vijay Singh in 2004. The 35-year-old Taylor, who was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, won for the third time on the PGA Tour. He did so despite shooting 75 in Thursday’s opening round.
“I was just hoping to make the cut,” Taylor said.
Wife Andie, who was back home tending to the couple’s second child, a daughter named Harper, who they had welcomed just five weeks earlier, gave him a much-needed pep talk via phone between rounds.
He rallied with a 67 on Friday to make the cut by just one shot. Taylor vaulted into contention by firing a course-record 9-under 63 on Saturday to move within three shots of the lead entering the final round. Five birdies over his first ten holes propelled Taylor to a three-shot lead at 16 under with eight holes to play, but there would be a couple hiccups coming home at Nos. 11 (offset by a bounce-back birdie at 12) and 16, which meant he needed to drain an 11-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to close in 6-under 66 and finish at 17-under 271, walking backwards with his fist raised as the ball disappeared into the hole.
A putter flip remembered across the country.🏌️♂️
The Canucks honoured RBC Canadian Open champion Nick Taylor before their game against the Sharks tonight. 👏 pic.twitter.com/vbh0dVfJGA
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 24, 2023
Fleetwood could have played spoiler in regulation, but he missed his tee shot right at the par-5 18th, laid up into an awkward lie in the right rough and two-putted for par to force the playoff.
The players traded birdies on their first time playing No. 18 in the playoff, then both parred 18 on a second playing and the par-3 ninth before heading back to 18 for a third go at it.
Taylor’s tee shot found a divot in the fairway, but he ripped his second shot from 221 yards to the front of the green, while Fleetwood laid up after his drive found a fairway bunker. Fleetwood hit his third shot to 12 feet, but Taylor ended the playoff in dramatic fashion when his uphill eagle putt hit the flagstick and dropped.
“Ever since I’ve been on the PGA Tour this is one that we want to do as well as we can in, and the crowd support was the most unbelievable thing I will probably ever experience in my life,” Taylor said that Sunday. “To break that curse, if you want to call it, is, I’m pretty speechless.”
Following a seemingly endless array of media interviews that night, Taylor was the last player to leave the premises around 10:30 p.m. and his stomach was growling. Jason Logan of Score Golf recounted the scene of Taylor pulling into a McDonald’s just before the Highway 401 on-ramp to load up on Chicken McNuggets. But just as they were about to order, Taylor’s phone, connected to the car’s Bluetooth system, rang and the caller’s name flashed on the display panel was none other than hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.
“I don’t have him in my phone but his name pops up for whatever reason and I look at the guys and I’m like, ‘I should probably take this call,’” Taylor recalled to Score Golf.
As Logan pointed out, that personifies how Taylor authored one of those proud Canadian sporting moments akin to Sidney Crosby’s golden goal, Joe Carter’s World Series-winning home run and Donovan Bailey’s 100-meter Olympic gold medal. It’s such a memorable moment that the RBC Canadian Open changed its logo to reflect Taylor’s histrionics.
ICONIC. 2024 #RBCCanadianOpenLearn more 👇 pic.twitter.com/dOK3NWCHoX
— RBC Canadian Open (@RBCCanadianOpen) December 1, 2023
It’s why Taylor likely will never have to buy a Molson (or Labatt’s) at a 19th hole in Canada for the rest of his life, Adam Woodard wrote in his lede to the Golfweek game story on Taylor’s triumph.
Taylor told the “Subpar” Podcast, he hadn’t been to a bar much to test this out, but at the U.S. Open the following week in Los Angeles he grabbed drinks with an old college roommate and someone recognized him and bought his round.
“This is going to start happening,” he said. “It’s not so bad.”
Seventy-two feet to win your national open in a playoff? It doesn’t get much better than that and it was an unanimous choice for Golfweek’s Shot of the Year.