Leading up to the PGA Tour’s Sanderson Farms Championship, being held this week in Jackson, Miss., Nick Taylor, the Abbotsford, B.C. native who won the event last year as a rookie on the tour, spoke to the media as he prepares to defend his title.
THE MODERATOR: Hello, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Brian Decker here from the PGA TOUR, welcoming you to the Nick Taylor Sanderson Farms Championship conference call. As you know, Nick is defending his title this week at the Country Club Jackson where he captured his first PGA TOUR victory last year. Nick has climbed the ranks steadily over the past two years going from the Mackenzie Tour PGA Tour Canada to the Web.com Tour to the PGA TOUR, where last year he was named the finalist rookie of the year. Before we go ahead and welcome Nick on the call, I’d like to take a brief roll call of the participants. I’m going to go through a couple of names and if you could let me know if you’d like to ask Nick a question, please go ahead. And if I don’t name you, just go ahead and let me know your name when we’re done and I’ll make sure to get you on the list. We’ll go ahead and get started.
Nick, welcome to the call. Defending your title this week at the Sanderson Farms Championship. If you wouldn’t mind just starting us off with a few comments on just how it feels to be defending a title on the PGA TOUR for the first time.
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, it’s quite the experience. It’s something that I haven’t done before, so I’m excited to be here for this week; and a lot of good memories coming back here, only playing here one year before and able to win. So it’s fun to come back. And I haven’t played the golf course yet, but I’ll do that today and tomorrow and get prepared for the tournament to start.
But it’s fun to be back here and have a lot of good memories about it.
THE MODERATOR: Nick, just as a follow-up, you know, this is the first year since 2013, way back when you were on the McKenzie Tour that you will have played the same courses and the same tournaments as the year before, and just how helpful is that as you come into your second year on the PGA TOUR and you get back into the swing of things for competition?
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, it’s definitely an advantage compared to last year. It’s nice to have the same golf courses and tournaments that I’ve played, coming back there, knowing what nine I need to play in practice round, cut back and conserve some energy, but it’s just nice to come back and see the same golf courses, familiar places. You know where to stay, you know where to eat. And you just know how to play the golf courses that much better than the year before, so it’s nice to be back in that spot, too.
THE MODERATOR: All right. We’re going to open it up for a few questions. Once again, as a reminder, this is an open conference call, so if you are not asking a question, please keep your phone on mute, and we’ll get through a list of questions first and then open it up towards the end. We’ll start with the Canadian press, if you’d like to go ahead.
Q. What have you learned about yourself over the last year?
NICK TAYLOR: I guess I think one of the bigger things was maybe having more patience. You know, I might have had a little more patience after winning, and trying to be more patient throughout the year and not trying to force anything.
Having some time off was nice to kind of reflect on the year and try to improve on that. I think a lot of times I was trying to force some things on the weekends and just wasn’t panning out, wasn’t having great finishes. So, so far this year I think I’ve played pretty well on the weekends, and it’s I think a bit of learning from last year. So it’s been nice to kind of look back and try to improve on that.
Q. This will be the first time you’re entering as a defending champion. Is the approach different at all knowing that there may be a bit of a target on the back so to speak?
NICK TAYLOR: Not right now. I think the expectations for myself, knowing I’ve played well here. So I’m just excited to play and see the golf course again. I’ll take today and tomorrow.
Yeah, just excited to be back here, knowing I’ve played well here, and I feel like my game is as good if not better than it was last year coming into this event. Just need to get dialed in on the greens and see how it goes. So I’m excited to be back here.
Q. Last time we talked you were in Kuala Lumpur. How is the transition? I mean that was a long flight. When did you arrive back from Kuala Lumpur?
NICK TAYLOR: I got into Jackson yesterday just after noon. So it was a long flight, but I was able to gain a lot of time coming here, so I was able to stay up yesterday and keep busy and got a decent night’s rest. So I feel good today. Later this afternoon I’m sure I’ll feel pretty wiped out, but I think I’ve adjusted pretty well to start, but by Thursday I think I’ll be completely fine and ready to go.
It’ll be a tiresome couple of days, but I think I’ll be ready to go for sure on Thursday.
Q. Now, last year you had a terrific putting round on Sunday, the entire tournament as a matter of fact. How has your putting been so far this year?
NICK TAYLOR: You know, in Vegas and the Frys I felt like it was okay. Last week it was different grass and it was tricky. I wasn’t seeing the lines very well on the greens, and it got better throughout the week. But that was the more frustrating part last week.
So coming back to greens that I know I’ve read well and I’ve putted before definitely helps, and we’ll be working on that this week, but that’s definitely the key here. It’s tricky greens, pretty fast. But having the confidence I’ve putted well on them before I think will be nice.
Q. I know this was touched on earlier, but your mindset going into this tournament versus the many other tournaments you’ve played? As defending champ, is there an element of excitement or anticipation or anxiety that you’re carrying into the Thursday’s first round?
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, I think more excitement for me. This will be my last tournament of this calendar year. So I kind of want to go out with a bang, and I’m excited to be back here and give myself a chance to defend. You don’t get to say that very often, so I’m excited to kind of give it my all and see how it goes. I think I’m playing really well and just want to see if I can pull it off again.
Q. Good luck. Thank you.
NICK TAYLOR: Thanks.
Q. Hey, Nick, wondering, obviously you were the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world. You had a lot of eyes on you over the years. And did you put more pressure on yourself, do you think, than probably you should have?
NICK TAYLOR: I think so. I think it was a bit of both where too much pressure and then also I didn’t have the feel of the rush or need to get out as soon as possible. I knew playing the Canadian Tour helped me, and it did certainly. But you know, if you told me turning pro would take me five years to get out here, I think I would have been content with that, but obviously during that time period it was definitely frustrating at times, and I know I wasn’t playing as well as I could.
So yeah, I was probably forcing it a bit too much, but I guess you learn that over the years on any tour you’re playing; and even this year, after the year I was doing a bit of that forcing a little too much and having maybe too high of expectations in some of the tournaments. So I think you learn every year whatever tour you’re playing, I’ve definitely learned at every level I’ve been.
Q. It’s funny because if you look back at what you just said about not putting too much pressure on yourself, does that emphasize the point, are you shocked really at just a few tournaments into your rookie year on the PGA TOUR, does it surprise you that you won so fast?
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, a little bit, I think. I was coming off such a high of getting my card, so it was a crazy couple of months in there where I was playing well. I think it was a huge advantage for me that having that wrap‑around season that I could just coast straight into the season here and keep playing well.
So last year had signs of playing well. I had some really good rounds the first few events, just wasn’t able to kind of pan the whole tournament together, and here I was able to have one of the poor rounds was 2‑under par, and that’s kind of what you need to do to win.
And obviously got my fair share of breaks as well. So I think the more you play, you know how tough it is to win, and you need the breaks to go your way while you’re playing really well as well.
Yeah, just having more expectations I think and playing a little more relaxed I think is the key for me to keep up the strong play.
Q. I know coming into the tournament last year you said that you were pretty confident in your game, but the one thing was the putting. Did it surprise you that your putting came along? Obviously you came from four shots off the lead and your putter was hot. Did that come as a surprise to you?
NICK TAYLOR: I putted well the whole week. I feel like I was reading the greens well, and definitely the putts were all going in the final day, but I’d had some really hot putting rounds near the end of the Web season and a couple of the rounds and events on the PGA TOUR before last year’s Sanderson Farms. So I knew it was there. I didn’t know it was going to come that day for sure, but I’d been putting well that week, so I had some confidence in the greens and everything just started dropping.
Q. Last question, you mentioned about patience now, probably trying to force things since you got the win. On the other hand, do you try and balance it a little bit with the confidence that you took out of your first win?
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, it’s definitely a balance act. It’s ‑‑ I think a lot of times on the weekend I was ‑‑ I made a lot of cuts last year, but you know, if I was staying 45th or 50th towards the weekend, you’re trying to force it to move up the leaderboard, and sometimes it’s counterproductive and I was moving backwards and trying things that were unnecessary. So knowing that with playing a little better and having confidence of knowing that I played well here this week and some other rounds will definitely help. Forcing things usually never really pans out, so it’s something I’ve learned and trying not to force.
Q. I understand you’re a Blue Jays fan growing up, and I’m wondering if you followed the team much over the last month.
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah. I did follow it. My dad’s a huge Blue Jays fan, and he engrained it in me. I wouldn’t say I watched a whole bunch over the regular season with how many games and being on the road, it was tough to see, but yeah, I was watching as many games as I could going to random places throughout the last few weeks when they were in the playoffs. So it was definitely exciting to watch, and yeah, I think they’ll be great for a couple of years. But it was a fun few weeks to watch.
Q. Have you ever met Dan Halldorson?
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah. Met him when I first started playing the Canadian tour.
Q. Like you, he was born in Manitoba, and did you know that he had won this event, which was then called the Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic in 1986?
NICK TAYLOR: No. I didn’t know that.
Q. Did you know he won $36,000 when he won it?
NICK TAYLOR: (Laughs). No. I didn’t know that either. Times have changed apparently.
Q. Apparently. That’s about five percent of what you won last year.
NICK TAYLOR: (Laughs).
Q. I understand that you got a Green Egg as a prize last year. Do you have any plans for that this winter?
NICK TAYLOR: No. I just set it up a few weeks ago, so I’m excited to use it. It’s fall. It took a while to get it going, with how many assemblies and attachments it has, and I’m excited to fire it up when I get home.
Q. Nick, I’m just wondering at any point this past season, the whole calendar year where you were overwhelmed ‑‑ or that may not be the right word, but just completely exhausted with the tour, just getting used to it, getting comfortable? And Brian mentioned earlier about the fact that year No. 2 you’re going to see a lot of these courses for the second time, but was there any time where you were just completely wiped out?
NICK TAYLOR: I don’t know if wiped out, but definitely exhausted. The break I had in September was definitely needed, I think. I would have liked to make it as far as I could in the PLAYOFFS, but I think once I was home after a couple of weeks realizing how much of a break I really needed, it was such a long season, something I’ve never really done for that long of a period, from January all the way to September. It’s not much time off and lots of travel. So I was definitely exhausted. Not that I didn’t want to be playing, but having that month‑long break was really nice, and I’m looking forward to the break over the next couple of months after this event.
Q. What’s your schedule look like for 2016? What will be your first tournament and what’s the rest of your calendar look like?
NICK TAYLOR: First right now will be the Sony Open, and I’ll play the majority of the West Coast. Haven’t narrowed down which events I’ll play. I might play all of them. I’ll probably take one off maybe, but I enjoy playing the West Coast where I’ve grown up. So play there and then kind of go from there.
Once I think June kind of hits, the schedule is different than last year, so it’s something I need to look at because of the Olympics. Hopefully I’m in the Olympics and I can schedule around that as well. A few things that will change once the summer hits, but the West Coast swing is kind of what I’m focusing on right now.
Q. How much is the Olympics a part of your focus and how much of a goal is that as well as maybe winning again, but just the Olympics in general?
NICK TAYLOR: Yeah, it’s a big goal. It’s going to be tough to get there to play it, but I think it’s a reasonable goal for me this year. Having six or seven months once June hits to try to move up the world rankings and get into that will be a huge goal of mine. So playing good golf will take care of a lot of things, and winning will take care of that, too, so it’s definitely a top priority in my goals list, so I’m excited to hopefully try to get out there.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks everyone for your questions. As we said earlier, we will have a transcript available that we’ll be sending out.
(Transcript courtesy ASAP Sports)