TORONTO – Nick Taylor became the first Canadian in 69 years to win his national open, holing a 72-foot eagle putt on the fourth playoff hole to beat Tommy Fleetwood in the RBC Canadian Open on Sunday.
Taylor tossed his putter into the air and jumped into the arms of his caddie after the longest made putt of his PGA Tour career, and fellow Canadian players Mike Weir, Corey Conners and Adam Hadwin were among those who ran onto the green to congratulate him. Hadwin, Taylor’s close friend, was tackled by a security guard while spraying champagne from a bottle.
“I’m speechless. 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 was Pat Fletcher in 1954 at Point Grey in Vancouver. Fletcher was born in England; Carl Keffer had been the only Canadian-born champion, winning in 1909 and 1914. Weir lost a playoff to Vijay Singh in 2004.
With galleries cheering his every move and even serenading him with “O Canada” on one tee box, Taylor curled in an 11-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to finish at 17-under 271 at Oakdale, walking backwards with his fist raised as the ball dropped into the cup. He shot a 6-under 66 on Sunday.
Fleetwood needed a birdie on the reachable par 5 to win in regulation, but he missed his tee shot right, laid up into an awkward lie in the right rough and two-putted for par to force the playoff in rainy conditions.
The players traded birdies on their first time playing No. 18 in the playoff. They both parred 18 and the par-3 ninth before heading back to 18.
Taylor’s tee shot found a divot in the fairway, but he hit his second shot 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 didn’t need to putt after Taylor’s uphill eagle putt hit the flagstick and dropped.
Fans swarmed toward the green, and Hadwin who like Taylor grew up in Abbotsford, British Columbia got leveled amid the chaos. He said had so much adrenaline that the tackle didn’t faze him.
“It’s incredible. I mean, what do you say to one of the greatest moments of Canadian golf history?” Hadwin said. “I think we all predicted that this was going to happen.
“I’m not sure that any one of us predicted a 72-foot (eagle) putt … to get it done, but what a way to go.”
The 35-year-old Taylor, who was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, won for the third time on the PGA Tour. He shot 75 in Thursday’s opening round but rallied with a 67 on Friday to make the cut, then shot 63 on Saturday to begin the final round three shots behind leader C.T. Pan.
Two-time defending champion Rory McIlroy, two shots back of Pan entering the final round, closed with a 72 and finished in a tie for ninth, five shots back.
Fleetwood, a two-time Ryder Cup player from England and a six-time winner on the European tour, remains winless on the PGA Tour.
“I played great today, even though I missed some chances, if you like, on those playoff holes,” Fleetwood said. “Yeah, it was close. I just have to take the positives from it and start practicing tomorrow. I got a major next week. So can’t dwell on it too much.”
Tyrrell Hatton (64), Aaron Rai (69) and Pan (70) finished one shot out of the playoff.