Taylor fails to finish it

Associated Press
Augusta resident Vaughn Taylor entered Sunday's final round with a 2-stroke lead but finished third.

ORLANDO, Fla. - Vaughn Taylor didn't pass this final-round test. He'll skip a week, play in Houston the following week and take his experience from Sunday to his hometown Masters Tournament.


The leader through 54-holes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Taylor couldn't finish it off in Sunday's final round at Bay Hill Club & Lodge. The Augusta resident, who had 13 birdies through the first three rounds, had just two Sunday and shot a 3-over 73 for third place at 5-under 275, three shots behind Vijay Singh, who won for the second time this season.

"I struggled all day; it was tough out there," Taylor said. "The course was playing really tough. It was about like you had to hit a perfect shot to get it close."

Indeed, windy conditions firmed up the course and kept the field guessing all day. There were just seven rounds of par-or-better, four of them under par.

Singh and runner-up Rocco Mediate, who finished two behind the winner, had the day's low rounds with 67.

It was Singh's first win in this event after three runner-up finishes (1993, 1994 and 2005) and moved him ahead of Augusta native Charles Howell (76 on Sunday to tie for 56th) on the current tour money list with $2,637,463.

"I wanted to win this one after so many misses," Singh said.

After averaging 13 greens in regulation the first three days while shooting 64-71-67, Taylor hit just nine greens Sunday and seldom was close to the pins when he did. Missed greens on Nos. 2 and 4 cost him bogeys and left him 2-over after four holes.

"The best-case scenario was to get off to a good start," said Taylor, who needed just 28 putts Sunday and finished sixth in the field for the week on the greens.

"I didn't want to come from behind and I didn't want to have the day I had. What can I do? I tried my best and gave it everything I had. It just didn't work out. I didn't play horrible or anything; I just didn't do what I needed to do."

The only time Taylor looked at a leaderboard was before he putted on the 18th green. He saw he was tied with playing partner Ben Curtis for fourth place at 4-under for the tournament. After Curtis missed his birdie putt, Taylor rolled in a 19-footer for birdie to take third place.

"I hadn't looked (before that) but I knew I was behind and there was no point in looking because I wasn't going to change what was I doing," he said. "The putt on 18 was big. One shot can make a big difference. I wanted to roll that one in, and I hit a good putt."

By finishing third, Taylor earned $374,000, which moved him from 91st on the money list to 32nd with $571,587. It wasn't enough, though, to get him in the field for this week's World Golf Championships in Miami. A solo second-place finish would have done it, so now Taylor will play the Houston Open the week before playing at Augusta National Golf Club.

"I don't want to take two weeks off before the Masters," Taylor said.

"This week will help me get prepared for the Masters," he added. "Anytime you play in the last group, there is a lot of pressure. It will definitely help me learn what your body does and what you think. You take the positives from it."

Singh had just 26 putts and won for the 31st time in his 15- year career. The 44-year-old Singh extended his record for tour victories by a golfer more than 40 years old to 19, two more than Sam Snead.

After 15 holes Sunday, Singh led by four shots over Mediate, who had already completed his round. Singh dropped single shots to par on Nos. 16 and 17 but still came to No. 18 with a two-shot lead.

"It was a good feeling to be standing on No. 18 knowing that you don't have to make a par to win the tournament," said Singh, who did make par.

Reach David Westin at (706) 823-3224 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.



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