Nick Taylor shoots 60 to match course record, shares Phoenix Open lead with Andrew Novak

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Nick Taylor, of Canada, hits his tee shot on the second hole during the continuation of the first round of the Phoenix Open golf tournament Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, in Scottsdale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Nick Taylor finished off a record round in the morning and had a short turnaround before teeing up again.

The Canadian needed something to eat and didn’t want to deal with the chaos of getting to the range at TPC Scottsdale, so he only hit a few balls on the range.

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The limited re-warmup and ensuing stiffness took a toll in his final 18 holes, but he pieced it together enough to hold onto a share of the lead at the Phoenix Open.

Taylor matched the course record with an 11-under 60 to finish his first round Friday and shot 70 in the second to match Andrew Novak for the Phoenix Open lead at 12 under.

“It’s weird feeling disappointed after a 70, but this morning was pretty hard to follow up,” said Taylor, who lost to Scottie Scheffler in a playoff at the Phoenix Open two years ago. “I was grinding a little bit early on, but held it together, made some key up-and-downs early on and it was nice to finish the round under par.”

With weather delays pushing the first round into Friday, Taylor returned to complete a record round shared with four others at TPC Scottsdale's Stadium course. That gave him a five-shot lead, matching Jim Gallagher Jr. at the 1993 Tour Championship for the largest 18-hole lead in a PGA Tour stroke-play event since 1983.

Taylor got his second round off to a shaky start before two birdies on the back nine moved him back into a tie for the lead with more than half the field still needing to finish Saturday.

“It's just tough to follow up a good round,” he said.

Novak closed out a 65 in the morning and shot 4-under 31 on the front nine for another 65 in the second round. Maverick McNealy shot 67 to reach 10 under and Doug Ghim was 9 under through 16 holes of his second round.

Scheffler was 8 under after a second-round 66 that gives him a shot at becoming the first PGA Tour player to threepeat at the same tournament for the first time in 13 years. Justin Thomas also was tied with two others at 8 under after a 65.

“Obviously, I’d like to be a little bit closer to the lead, but still, four back out of now is not a bad place to be,” Scheffler said.

A long weather delay left half the field needing to finish their first rounds and a 90-minute frost delay pushed tee times back even more.

The setbacks left most of the field stuck in the middle of their second rounds, with more rain in the forecast on Saturday.

Taylor has three career PGA Tour wins, none more memorable than the 2023 Canadian Open. The 35-year-old sank a 72-foot eagle putt to beat Tommy Fleetwood in the fourth playoff hole, becoming the the first Canadian to win his national open in 69 years.

Following his record round, Taylor had a 40-minute turnaround before his next tee time and bogeyed the par-4 first hole. He got it back with a birdie on No. 10, but missed a nine-foot birdie putt on the par-5 15th.

Taylor two-putted for birdie from 40 feet on the 321-yard 17th hole and saved par on No. 18 after having to lay up from a fairway bunker.

“I probably just got a little steery the first couple holes,” Taylor said. “Those are probably the hardest tee shots, 1 and 2, and then the putts just kind of weren’t dropping early. But again, I was proud of how I hung in there.”

Novak missed the cut his first three tournaments of 2024, but finished off a first-round 65 Friday morning and was in the first group on No. 1 for the second round. He had four birdies to shoot 4-under 31 on the front nine, added another on No. 13 and took the lead at 12 under with a pitch and putt at No. 17.

“I knew I was close and put a lot of work in the off week, and my coach was here earlier this week,” Novak said. “My swing finally was in a good place going into this tournament.”

The good news for Novak, Taylor and the rest of the players is they won't have to get up early to finish their second rounds.

The bad news is that more rain could be on the way.


AP golf:

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