By Darrell Moody
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO - Two victories on the PGA Tour. One on the Nationwide Tour. Not bad for a guy who only got one recruiting offer out of high school.
Vaughn Taylor admits he wasn't a very good golfer coming out of high school in Georgia. In fact, only hometown Augusta State recruited him.
Through tons of hard work, Taylor has turned himself into one of the top young players in the world after four top-10 finishes last year, including a win at last year's Reno-Tahoe Open.
The future got even brighter Sunday when Taylor fired an even-par 72 at Montreux Golf & Country Club en route to a record setting 72-hole score of 267 and his second straight Reno-Tahoe Open championship.
Taylor's 72-hole score of 267 beat the old record of 271 held by John Cook, Chris Riley, Jonathan Kaye and Kirk Triplett. The wire-to-wire victory was the fifth on the PGA Tour this year.
The victory puts him 45th on the money list, which means he's exempted through the 2007 season. He also qualifies for the Mercedes Championship in January.
Jonathan Kaye, who shot four rounds in the 60s for the second time at the RTO, shot a final-round 67 and finished second, three shots back at 270.
Todd Fischer, who finished with a 2-under-par 70, was third at 271. J.T. Henry (66), J.P. Hayes (69) and Aaron Baddeley (70) tied for fourth at 273. Tag Riddings, who fired a final-round 67, was seventh at 274. Fredrik Jacobson was eighth at 275.
Taylor entered the final day with a commanding six-shot lead, but it was apparent early that he had lost the aggressiveness that helped him collect 24 birdies over the first three rounds. His lead was trimmed to three strokes, but his steady play was enough to get him by.
He bogeyed No. 6, a relatively easy par-4, but got the shot back with a birdie on No. 9. He parred all nine holes on the back side.
"I've never had a big lead before," Taylor said. "It's tough. I didn't know how to handle it. I was hoping to get off to a good start. Things didn't go my way at the start. Overall the week was fabulous. I saw Justin Leonard win (wire-to-wire at FedEx event), and I thought, 'Wouldn't it be awesome to do that?' There's no better way to win. I can't believe I actually did it.
"I tried to stick to my game plan; the way I was playing the last three days. I was coming out of my shot a little. Subconsciously I was aiming for the middle of the green."
Baddeley made a nice charge with birdies on Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 6 to get to 17 under, but he lost two shots on the back nine and fell out of contention.
The sixth hole saw Taylor take two shots to get out of a greenside bunker left of the green, leading to his only birdie of the day.
Fischer, in particular, felt that Taylor was beatable. Neither he nor Kaye could do enough good things to put a serious dent into Taylor's lead.
"Eight shots is a lot to make up," Kaye said. "I didn't get off to a good start."
"Vaughn didn't do anything that stellar," said Fischer, who made a big jump on the money list with his third-place finish.
Kaye knocked in a 4-foot birdie putt on No. 3 to get to 14 under. He drained a 9-footer on No. 5, a par-5. He improved to 16 under with a 46-foot putt on No. 7, a 220-yard par-3. A bogey on No. 9 dropped him back to 15 under. He birdied the par-5 11th with a 5-footer and, for the fourth straight day, birdied the 186-yard 12th to get to 17 under and slice the deficit to four shots. He sliced the lead to three strokes with a birdie on No. 14, but that's as close as he got.
Kaye had a chance to make Taylor sweat on the 17th when he reached the 636-yard par-5 in two (back fringe), thanks to a 299-yard approach shot. He was 58 feet away and took three to get down.
"If I make eagle and then birdie 18, he's going to feel the heat," Kaye said. "It's a whole new ballgame. We're playing extra holes again, maybe."
Fischer was even par on the front nine throughout the tourney, and he felt that's why he was unable to catch Taylor.
"I was 17 under on the back nine," he said. "I need a playing lesson on the front nine. It ate my lunch. I'm disappointed. I could have done a lot better."
n Darrell Moody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (775) 881-1281