Vaughn Taylor returns to Augusta with more appreciation, optimism

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By Paul Newberry,AP

AUGUSTA, Georgia — The last time Vaughn Taylor was at Augusta National, he needed a ticket to get through the gates.

With his career in shambles, he had just about given up on the idea of returning to the Masters as a player.

So, he attended with his young son.

“We thought it would be cool to bring him out,” Taylor said Monday, remembering how his family was at last year’s tournament as fans. “I wanted to wait until I got back in the tournament.” But, he quickly added, “I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it back.”

Indeed, no one saw this coming.

Not even Taylor, if you want to get right down to it.

His son — now 2-year-old Locklyn — will be able to watch his dad on the other side of the ropes this week, setting up perhaps the most compelling story outside of the guy who dons the green jacket.

If that winds up being Taylor, it certainly wouldn’t be any more improbable than the journey that brought the 40-year-old to this point.

Slogging away in golf’s minor leagues and with a humongous number in front of his name, Taylor got into Pebble Beach as an alternate based on his status as a past winner on the PGA Tour, albeit more than a decade ago. Then, somehow, he put together four of the greatest rounds of his life to win the tournament, edging out Phil Mickelson.

Just like that, Taylor went from 447th in the world rankings to a spot in the Masters.

“It just tells me, never give up,” Taylor said. “Always believe, always believe in yourself, no matter what your game feels like or where you’re playing or what’s going on. You’ve got to always have that belief that this will be your week and things will turn around, and it actually happened. It was pretty amazing.”

Even more so when you consider where he was just a week before Pebble Beach.

Playing in a Web.com Tour event in Bogota, Colombia — and with conditional status, at that — Taylor came down with a stomach virus. He played a few holes in the opening round before play was halted by rain.

As his conditioned worsened that night, he wasn’t sure he could go on.

“I was just lying in bed praying for it to stop,” Taylor recalled.