PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Vaughn Taylor is a pro stuck in no-man’s land – torn between two tours unsure of which direction to turn in golf’s confusing new world order.
“Right now, I plan on playing any week I can and playing a lot,” said Taylor of his bouncing between the elite PGA and developmental Web.com tours.
Last week, Taylor was in Panama contending in the Web.com Tour season opener and finishing tied for ninth.
This week, he’s playing the weekend at PGA National after Monday qualifying his way into the Honda Classic for the second consecutive year.
Taylor belongs in both worlds – he’s just unsure which way to turn as the best path back to fully exempt status on the PGA Tour that slipped through his fingers on the last day of Q School last fall.
“Going into the season I was kind of thinking of just playing out here,” Taylor said of the PGA Tour that’s been his full-time home since 2004. “But after the West Coast I realized I don’t know how many tournaments I’m going to get in. So with the new (qualifying system), I was going to play out here hopefully finish in the top 200. Now I don’t know. It might look like I’ll only get eight events, so I have to play somewhere else.”
With only conditional status on the PGA Tour after finishing 142nd on the money list last year, Taylor got into just one of six events on the West Coast swing. He missed the cut in his lone start at Pebble Beach. He’s in next week’s opposite event field in Puerto Rico, received a sponsor’s exemption from Bay Hill and is a likely bet for San Antonio at the end of March.
After that there are no certainties.
At the end of the PGA Tour’s regular season, the first 75 players outside of the top 125 exempt for the FedEx Cup playoffs will join the top 75 money leaders on the Web.com Tour for a four-event qualifying series in August and September to determine the 50 remaining full-time PGA Tour cards for the next season.
“If (qualifying) wasn’t the way it is, I’d probably completely commit to the Web.com,” he said. “I don’t know really what to do. I’d love to get going out here and just play well and not have to worry about Web.com. That would be the best case.”
The worst case is he splits himself too thinly on both tours and fails to qualify either way. It’s a Catch-22 for a former Ryder Cup player and two-time tour winner who knows he’s capable of competing on PGA Tour yet perhaps dominating on the Web.com.
“I know I can play out here,” said Taylor, who made 15 birdies, 16 bogeys and a double in the first three rounds at PGA National. “It’s a matter of getting my game together. I played out here a long time and had some good years and played well in some big tournaments. I don’t feel that it’s too far away.
“It’s just very difficult to work on things at tournaments unless you’re fully exempt and can tinker around a little bit. In my position I’ve got to get it in the hole as fast as I can.”
That objective has been mixed for the past few seasons. Consistently good enough to shoot low scores and get in the hunt, he’s hobbled himself with rogue scores that derail momentum and flush away solid finishes needed to sustain his standing on the money list.
“Oh my goodness it frustrates me to no end,” said the former Augusta State and Hephzibah star. “It’s such a thin line out here. If you shoot 1- or 2-over instead of 3- or 4-under, you get completely lapped. It’s definitely frustrating to be in good position and waste it with one bad day.”
That crisis in confidence has sent Taylor searching for what was working for him in the first few years on tour. He reconnected with his old instructor, Jack Lumpkin, last fall and started reusing his old See-More putter, as well.
“I’m trying to go back to what worked,” he said. “I’ve watched a lot of film from tournament play back in 2004-06 which I think is more important than watching film on the range. Your swing in the tournament is what it is. I compare it to where I was last year and with Mr. Lumpkin’s help am trying to get it back there.”
One of the things that worked best, however, was the confidence boost initially gained with success on the Nationwide Tour in 2003 that launched his PGA Tour career. There’s merit in rebooting the process instead of continuing to swing for the quick fix. But there’s pride involved, as well.
“I thought about that last week,” Taylor said. “I was playing pretty good. Just the experience of being out here (on the PGA Tour) makes it easier out there (on the Web.com). I almost thought it would be good to play out there and play well and get some confidence and feel comfortable around the lead and not feel like your life-is-on-the-line type of thing. It’s definitely a thought and I definitely need to build some confidence somehow. If I have to drop down there to play and play better to gain confidence, I think it would be good looking to the future.”
This is the tough choice Taylor needs to make – and make soon. No-man’s land is no place for a tour pro.